Vaughan Rapatahana continues to write and to live across three countries. Several new books in different genre are due out soon in Hong Kong SAR, Aotearoa New Zealand, France, United Kingdom. Thank you also for this opportunity.
Bob Orr has been a well-regarded New Zealand poet for several decades, having eight collections of poetry produced to date, with a new collection due out soon. He is also rather different to so many ‘modern’ poets, in that he has always paddled his own poetic waka (or canoe) in and through his own currents. Oaring across his own ocean, if you will.
Bob never completed any tertiary education. He never attended any university ‘creative writing’ classes in an endeavour to craft his poetry ‘better.’ Up until very recently, when he was the 2017 University of Waikato Writer in Residence, he eschewed any applications for literary grants. He rarely, if ever, uses a computer to write with or on — he doesn’t even have an email address. Indeed, he continues to write with an old style ribbon-fed typewriter. Bob Orr is a bit of a Luddite — all of which ensures that his stream of poetry flows deep from his heart and mind and is never obfuscated by the trends, tropes, and trivialities of the latest poetic fad. Like another key New Zealand poet, Sam Hunt, Bob Orr has always remained a people’s poet, by which I mean, a writer who keeps it simple, who never overreaches into pretentiousness and amorphous cleverdickism.
‘As I strive to spread out any potential ingrained clench as to what makes for Kiwi poetry, any Kiwi poetic, away from ‘mainstream’ clutches that demand ‘appropriate’ ways of writing, presenting and publishing a poem, in this commentary I take into consideration what three expatriate Kiwi (aka Aotearoa New Zealand) writers think/reflect about Kiwi poetry from afar.
All three are themselves poets of note and all three certainly widen the avenues away from the tarsealed main road of poetry in New Zealand, precisely because they are overseas: outside, looking back in from the perspective of physical distance and the concomitant cultural capital involved. After initially establishing their overseas locale and history there, I asked them all the same simple questions regarding Kiwi poetry, as follows.’
What would you like to see more of in Aotearoa poetry from your point of view as a poet? In other words is there sufficient recognition, publishing scope, critical space given to poets who craft their work in ‘different’ ways?
I’d love to see new voices find publication from a wide range of styles and personal backgrounds so that we reflect our diverse community in terms of race, class, gender, sexuality, and beyond to be as inclusive as possible. Poets have never had greater access to media and to publishing than now, although our mainstream publishers no longer have deep pockets. It’s always a writer’s task to convince, or make curious, or satisfy, or entertain a readership, and it’s a lyric poet’s task to evoke the particulars of being and a sense of the flow state that created the feelings attached to being ‘somewhere’ at the time. A poem might be on the fridge next to a flat roster, or on the edge of a windswept cliff facing the ghosts of Kapiti Island. There are so many other kinds of poetry I wouldn’t know where to begin, except to encourage that too.
Paula: I am dead keen to see a new book of poetry – love the new ones.
The 2018 National Flash Fiction Day competition runs through April 30.
Send your best 300-word story * Cash prizes
Three categories: Adult, Youth and a Te reo Māori Prize
‘Compressed forms tend to make poets of us all, because the fewer words you have to work with the more work you want each of those words to do. So yes, perhaps poets start with a bit of an advantage since they are already familiar with using distilled language and constrained form. But the ‘fiction’ aspect of flash demands a commitment to the idea of story: the passage of time, development of character, something that happens, a transformative moment. And whereas the basic building block of poetry is the line, in flash fiction it is usually the sentence. Which is a good place to suggest that Jac Jenkin’s ‘Settlement’ (2016) is a terrific example of the overlap between prose poetry and flash fiction. It’s carefully crafted with the line and the sentence in mind. It pops with concrete imagery (“one femur has a spiral crack; its neck has been gnawed by rodent teeth”), has rhythm, uses alliteration (“am I fleshed or flayed?”), and speaks as much from the white space between the words as from the words themselves.’ Sue Wootton
We are pleased to share insights from this year’s judges.
‘The creation of flash fiction/prose poetry is increasing exponentially in Aotearoa, New Zealand. It has always been around, but nowadays there are more exponents, more outlets, more coverage, more academic ‘acceptance’ of the form. It is a significant presence and — to me — a very valuable and viable method to further w i d e n the horizons of poetry and literature in this country. Which has always been the focus of these commentaries.
What is this form and why have I written flash fiction/prose poetry as a Siamese twin? Well, that is a good question. There is often no clear-cut distinction between prose poetry and flash or short fiction, most especially as — obviously — both are economical in terms of the number of words used, given that prose poems can sometimes extend well beyond the word limits defining flash fiction.
However, given the amorphousness here between such subgenres, flash fiction does attempt to tell a story, to at least set up a narrative with some characterization; to plot a plot if you will. This does not occlude storytelling via prose poetry, but the tendency of the latter is to also concentrate on not only the ‘traditional’ poetic tropes of imagery, yet also wordplay, unusual discourse, novelty of effect; to
s t r e t c h poetry beyond the staid, into freedom from constraint. If in so doing, a prose poem seems to replicate a slice of flash fiction, it is a happy coincidence. This is a very simplistic overview, however, because the more I delve into the difference, the more I discern that there is no clear difference! ‘
‘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.’