Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Dunedin Reading

The reading with Tim Jones went really well and was a great MC. I don’t need to write too much as Tim has written a report on his blog.  The open mike quality was really great—we had a miniature poetry fest.  It was great to have friends from Coal Action Network at the readings.  The poems I read were ‘Glam’, ‘Dear E.T’, ‘The Last Day of Petra Kelly’, ‘Bus Stop’, ‘Summer People’ and finally ‘Tekapo Dark Sky.’

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Dunedin Reading/Landfall Review

I'm reading my poetry with Tim Jones and open mike poets on Sunday  9th October at 12:00–13:30 PM at the Dunedin Public Libraries (Dunningham Room, 4th floor). The facebook Event page is here.

Tim's also published my poem 'Fey Exchange' on his blog as a Tuesday poem.  This poem took a long time to write. I wrote two short story versions of 'Fey Exchange' and a couple of different approaches to the poem before being satisfied with this one. Mercifully not all poems require such labours.

I'm really excited to be going back to Dunedin as I can't get enough of this city. And it's the school holidays. I get to sleep. 

Good review by Piet Nieuland of 'Udon by The Remarkables' in Landfall Review.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

National Poetry Day

I put some details about the readings last in the comments section for each of the events.  I’ve been rushing around so much this last week I’ve been too flat stick to blog. There’s a great photo of the crowd at Unity Books on the Unity site—I really got a kick out of the reading and thought that the whole mix worked really well. Good bookshops are magic, eh?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

New Sea Land launch

Me, Tim, Mary, Paul
Photo by Rohan

I had the pleasure of launching Tim Jones’ book New Sea Land last night at the totally wonderful Ekor Books (a totally unusual bookshop of intriguing books including Harry Potter in Russian, the musical score of Fidelio, and an anthology of contemporary Swiss poetry. I could not leave emptyhanded and bought a CD of Don Giovanni. I’ll be back).  The launch was well attended and went well.

In other news I have a whole day of poetry tomorrow at various events.  I’ also pleased that ‘Udon’ received a favourable review by Patricia Prime in the now online Takahe magazine.

Here’s the full (slightly rough) speech I gave last night at the launch.

New Sea Land

I am very honoured to be asked to launch Tim Jones' new book New Sea Land.  I was very excited to read Tim's new book and I was also delighted to hear that he was being published by Makaro.  The Makaro team put out beautifully designed books. And Claire Benyon's cover painting 'Balancing on Air is no easy task' just works so well with this collection. 

I want to kick off by saying that Tim's a highly original poet--what he does in New Sea Land is really quite extraordinary and I welcome the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the uniqueness of his work.

To explain this uniqueness let me tell you how I first met Tim and why I respect and love his poetry so much.  About 12 years ago I had recently returned to writing poetry and I found that my poetry was going in a very odd direction--I was writing what I could only call 'speculative' or fantastic poetry. It dealt with alternative universes, ludicrous voyages to the moon, Shakespearean sonnets describing futuristic landscapes. This wasn't the only type poetry I was writing but the only other poets I knew in NZ interested in such verse were Tim Jones and Mark Pirie who were putting together a superb anthology of NZ Science Fiction poetry called Voyagers.  I remember my first meeting with Tim in cafe: after five minutes I could tell that this was a guy who shared the same mixed up sense of what counts as interesting poetry as I did. Why can't poetry be fantastic?

This is one reason why New Sea land is such a welcomed addition to our poetry. Tim's work resists any one genre of poetry or of literature. New Sea Land is not purely focussed on the technical aspects of poetry or questioning or bending poetic conventions.  Here the traditional literary boundaries between horror fiction, science fiction, alternative histories, and lyrical poetry are broken as Tim's imagination is given complete free range. This is what I love about this bookit engages with SF, horror, history, cinema and also our own history.  Tim always engages the readerhe takes you with him on these incredible poetic flights.  I've always felt that poetry is easily aligned with the fantasticPlath has never been given credit as a master of Gothic Horror.

Consider the High Fantasy of 'City of Air':

most noble leader of the African Greys,
Queen of the Parrots,
right head of the Aves,
of the newly winnowed earth.

My Queen, what you foresaw
has come to pass.
All those who bore live young
are dead.  The insects
and our cousins share the feast.
Carrion, carrion for all!

This poetry is a sheer delight for me.  There's a streak of crazy humour as we hear echoes of Games of Thrones (those long winded proclamations from the Targaryean  Queen) coupled with the slight mania of "Carrion, carrion for all" . . . but there are also very subtle touches here "newly winnowed earth" starts me wondering. Winnow means "blow a current of air through (grain) in order to remove the chaff" but this word also reminds me of 'minnow' . . .  entirely fitting for a book called 'New Sea land.'  It's 'winnow' but I hear 'minnowed'-- I hear fish . . . it's when poetry allows me to wander somewhat errantly that I hear the poet's subtetly.

Compare this to the much more sinister opening flourishes of 'Kraken':

Millennia of sunlight passed the Kraken by.
He slept where he had fallen, each molecule
bound up in water ice, kept safe by permafrost
or the pressure of the deep.  Kraken lay
unmoved beneath the waves, deep in his dreams
of fire and air, while the the ice sat heavy on the poles
and the clever, clever apes, fizzing with language,
trudged northwards out of Africa.

The writing here reminds me of the opening of a graphic novel in its remarkably compressed storytelling.  A good poetry book should resonate . . . I mentioned Game of Thrones earlier  . . . in 'deep in his dreams' (a wonderful half-line which recalls Anglo-Saxon alliteration) of 'fire and air' I hear a trace of 'of Fire and Ice' and this brings me back to George RR Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice with it's world facing the threat of massive climate disruption and undead blond zombie warriors . . . and 'fizzing' here is, in the poetic lexicon of New Sea Land', associated with both the sea and with 'post-human' futures.  In the wonderful 'The Cockroach for it's beauty', which begins . . .

You have to admit they rose to the challenge.
How completely, with what devotion
to the scientific method, they took up the burden
God had laid upon them in Genesis;
dominion over the swimmers and the crawlers'

we hear, later in the poem, the line

"On sunny days the wavetops fizz with penguins"

You can see how economical and suggestive this is for the reader who has returned again to this book.  The age of apes 'fizzing' with language has gone and now the great age of the dominion of sea fizzes with penguins (who along with the cockroaches) survive us.

Like H.G. Wells's Time Traveller we are taken on multiple journeys in the book.  Yet, as with Wells, these flight are far from escapist or whimsical in nature.  Tim is not afraid to take risks: he’s willing this book to tackle climate disruption in his poetry. This can be dangerous ground for a poet: protest poetry can sound bombastic, preachy, condescending, and entirely lacking in ambiguity or any sense of space for the reader.  Most poets adopt an ironic, playful tone and write on more depoliticised, less heavy topics.  Yes, these poems are about climate disruption and about denial and a future landscapes and geographies. These are protest poems—but now as we know them.  These  protest poems are inventive, playful, chilling, imaginative and also very human.  Tim is finally out of the green closet and showing us his bright green plumage.  At the end of New Sea Land we find that what we talk about when we talk about climate change is mortality. The poems ask us to consider the end of our assumption that we can continue in a ‘business as usual’ fashion. We have to question the assumption that the continuation of our species is inevitable.  Tim weaves reflections of personal morality with the threat of more devastating ends to all our days.  Nowhere is this more clearly expressed than in the poignant love poem 'Lets not die": 

Let's not die.  Let's hide
when the black sack comes
to close over our heads.

What matters in the end are people. To care about climate disruption, to care about  water, land,  and the challenges before us is to care about people.  Or as Tim puts it at the end of New Sea Land:

If you are dismasted, take my life raft.
Take my rubber ring, my hand.

Tim, thanks for a wonderful book. 

Friday, July 22, 2016

Poets in the Park / Buckets of Poets

Here’s the Mākaro Press Poets in the Park | Buckets of Poets poster for the afternoon reading on National Poetry Day August 26th with Kerry Popplewell, Tim Jones, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Pete Carter, Robyn Cooper, Peter Stuart, Stefanie Lash, Polina Kouzminova and JamieTrower. I’ll be up there after the reading at Unity Books. ‘Udon by The Remarkables’ also received a favourable review from Emma Shi in BooksellersNZ.  'Udon' took many years to write and I’m pleased reviewers are enjoying the book.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

National Poetry Day readings/More reviews

A big thanks to Siobhan Harvey who gave 'Udon by The Remarkables' a great review in The Herald's Weekend edition on July 2. I'm also grateful to Harry Ricketts for his lovely review on Nine-till-Noon on Wednesday.  I spent seven or eight years working on 'Udon' in various forms and it's great that reviewers enjoying the  book.

The short review of 'Udon' in Stuff is now online.  

I have a couple of readings scheduled for National Poetry Day on Friday 26th August.

I'll be reading as part of 'Six Poets in Sixty Minutes' at Unity Books from 1PM-2PM with poetry star Hera Lindsay Bird and  Bill Nelson, Rachel O'Neill, Kerrin P Sharpe and Tim Upperton.

Then I go from Unity Books on Willis Street to Bucket Tree Fountain on Cuba street to read with poets from Makaro Press from 2PM to 3PM.

But wait. There's more.  I'm also reading at Lower Hutt Poetry Day event - "Poems of the Seasons and of the Land" with Anne Powell; Keith Johnson; Adrienne Jansen;  Kerry Hines; Kerry Popplewell; Martin de Jong; Tim Jones; Keith Westwater.

Friday August 26th at 58 Woburn Road, Lower Hutt from 7.30pm.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Udon reviewed in Stuff

Well, it was pleasing to see Udon by The Remarkables receive a favourable review in Stuff along with Thom Conroy and my other Mākaro press buddies. Thanks to the unknown review whoever you may be!  I like the description of the book as ‘kaleidoscopic ‘ as that’s what I was aiming for.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

'Udon by The Remarkables' in London Grip

James Norcliffe has written a warm introduction over on his blog and Teoti Jardine has given the book a favourable review, over on London Grip.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Glover Park reading

Here’s me reading with Ish Doney down at Glover Park. Mary McCallum took the photos. Thanks to those who gave appreciative comments. Cheers. I read ‘Dear ET’, ‘Closer’, ‘Summer People’, ‘Midnight’, ‘Punch’, ‘The Goodbyes’, ‘House of Design’ and ‘Abandoned Car.’ Great weather. Interesting venue. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fringe Reading

Me with my Punch face on

The reading over at Fringe Bar with Ish Doney and music by Ruth Mundy went well with a great turn-out including many family and friends.  I read the poems ‘Dear ET’, ‘Delph, Whit Friday (for my dad), ‘Glam’, ‘Punch’ and ‘Bus Stop’ from Udon by The Remarkables.  These last two are especially fun to read as they have their own distinct voices.  Mary took this photo. Rohan shot some video which we’ll put up sometime on YouTube when I’m less busy.

Fringe Bar

Glover Park reading this Thursday

I’m reading on with Ish Doney at Glover Park on Thursday 19 th April at 12.30PM. Open air poetry to the public . . . time to get the brave face on!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hoopla Launch 2016

Ish Doney, me, Helen Jacobs at Scorpio Books. Photo: Mary McCallum

On Saturday Udon by The Remarkables was launched along with Ish Doney's Where the Fish Are and Helen Jacobs' Withstanding at Scorpio Books new shop over on Heresford Street.

Luckily, I managed to get there on time.

I'd flown in well in advanced.  On the airport bus to the YMCA on Hereford Street (my favourite place to stay in Christchurch) I saw Scorpio Book on Riccarton Road (which is pumping since the quake) and thought "hey, there's the shop."  I knew that the container mall shop had gone and so thought . . . Riccarton's the place.

It was a hot day as I took a nice long walk from Heresford Street, by the hospital, down past Hagley Park and on to Riccarton — stopping off for a bagel on the way.

So I get into the shop at 3PM —  the launch is due to kick off at 3.30PM.  The shop's busy and there's a flier on the counter with a photo of us three amigos poets.

I got to the counter and announced that was here to read for the launch.  That's all very well, I'm told politely. But you're at the wrong shop!

The right shop is on Hereford Street where I'd just come from about 45-50 mins ago. (I like to walk.)

Time to call a cab!

But I got there in time  for a wonderful launch with Ish and Helen. I met Ish's family — who had catered a wonderful spread —  and poets James Norcliffe, Bernadette Hall, and Jeffrey Paparoa Hollman.

I read the poems 'Dear ET', 'Glam', 'Carnival', 'Tekapo Dark Sky' and got to thank Mary McCallum for Makaro, for having faith in the book and for questioning every word and comma because she cared; William Carden-Horton for his striking illustration and design; Scorpio for hosting the event and Ish and her family for arranging the food and drink.

Memo to self: remember the address.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

HOOPLA 2016 from Mākaro Press

The audacious new poetry series HOOPLA, which launches three poets every April, is three years old this year. And with two Christchurch poets in the 2016 line-up it is launching in the freshly opened Scorpio bookstore in Hereford Street.

The series with its bright Faber-like covers has been a hit on the local poetry scene where most poets make their way individually. HOOPLA launches  a late-career, mid-career and debut poet at the same time, and is an imprint of Wellington’s Mākaro Press.

‘The idea,’ says publisher Mary McCallum of Mākaro Press, ‘ is that the poets and their books support each other out in the world: generating a combined energy at events, standing with each other at readings, providing a focus at bookstores. It’s a tough world out there for poetry, and so far we’ve loved the way the HOOPLA poets have worked together in their groups of three, and together as a wider whānau.’

The HOOPLA poets of 2014 and 2015 appeared together at Litcrawl in Wellington last year, in an event which saw them reading as a tag team on the theme of ‘love’. And the 2015 trio undertook a Melbourne road trip. There have been award nods too with Jennifer Compton’s Mr Clean and The Junkie long-listed for the Ockham prize this year, and Hoopla work selected for Best NZ Poems.

Much-loved Canterbury poet Elaine Jakobsson ( 87) is the late career poet for Hoopla 2016 with her book Withstanding. The theme of the collection is ‘age’. Wellingtonian teacher Harvey Molloy is the mid-career poet with Udon by The Remarkables, theme: ‘worlds’, and the debut poet is Christchurch poet Ish Doney with Where the Fish Grow, theme: ‘leaving’. Ish returns from Scotland for the launch.

Previous HOOPLA poets are:  (2014) Michael Harlow, Helen Rickerby and Stefanie Lash; (2015) Jennifer Compton, Bryan Walpert and Carolyn McCurdie. The 2016 launch is on Saturday, 16 April, 3.30 pm at Scorpio’s Hereford Street store in the BNZ centre, launcher James Norcliffe, with a Wellington launch the next day 17 April at the Fringe bar, Allen St,  4-6pm. The Hoopla series is designed by William Carden-Horton and available through all good bookstores for $25 each.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

New poems

Three new poems out soon: 'Overburden', 'Return', 'Aitutaki installation.'

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Monday, March 07, 2016

Book launch: Udon by the Remarkables

I'm looking forward to sending 'Udon' out into the world with Ish and Helen in Christchurch on the 16th April. Got my ticket. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

On Bowie's Death

Upset and saddened to hear of Bowie's death. At least he got Blackstar out in time! He changed my life with his songs. He opened doors to art and made life more exciting. God I am going to miss him.

You live in a tiny village by the Pennines and one day WHAM BAM Art Man comes and shakes you and your friends awake. I cannot even imagine how I would think about poetry without Hunky Dory and Space Oddity. All you need to know about the transformative power of art is in those first three albums. I'm not even sure how to explain how Bowie wired my understanding of sexuality because I was just this kid--but he did; he really did---but over everything else there was this great imaginative power wonder and dread in his music--think of the end of Belway Brothers. That is just so incredible. Such strangeness and awe: that changes you because you feel odd, a little strange yourself, 'out of the ordinary', I guess the word is 'queer' in a very broad encompassing sense. At the same time--totally paradoxically--he was also very English.
In ’95 I wrote ‘Ziggy ’72: A catalogue of LostObjects’ for Mike Harvey’s Ziggy website.  It was a popular piece with many thousands of readers and is quoted in Jim Miller’s book Almost Grown: The Rise of Rock.

I started work on a companion piece to ‘Ziggy ’72’ which I then shelved as I moved on to new projects.

Ziggy '72 ends with this sequence which I'll end with here . . .

width of a circle
When we get back, I lie on the bed staring at the ceiling. All I can hear in my head is the song 'Width of a Circle.' What is the width of a circle anyway? That can’t be the same as the diameter, or the radius, right?  Maybe he’s talking about the width of a circular line -- but I already know that lines are connections between points. You mark a circle with a line and suddenly you have a radius, a circumference, and a diameter, but the line has no properties of its own. For to mark a space is to generate properties.
It’s late. In the bed across the room, Paul grunts in his sleep. What had he been fighting with dad about today? Had he wet the bed or had I misunderstood the encounter with mum this morning? There was a sadness about my brother that was difficult to fathom. Dad was clearly disappointed with him.
I get up, poke my head through the bedroom curtains and look at the yellow streetlights. Once, perhaps, the world had been magical. There had been gods, elves, myths and places you could hide where the world couldn’t find you. You felt that magic when you followed the river from Delph to Uppermill. It was there but hidden, forgotten, like the power of the stone circle in Penrith. Now there were cars, streetlights, schools and factories. Someone had drawn a timetable in the air and had created routines. 
xenos: strange
You played the stranger
The one who stands on the threshold
Awaiting our reply

In the hard rock amphitheatre
I crammed in everything to store
yellow skin, beetroot hair, a few
idle remarks to the audience

You pushed the microphone stand
into waves of adulating hands
played the crowd for all we were worth
as all dictators do.

No grave Apollo, you asked:
would you follow the way from outside;
would you become an outsider too?
you were in this song
I had known loneliness -- the quiet walks by the river, the silence of the paper round when all I could hear was the soft crunch of my steps over fresh snow -- but I had yet to feel the loneliness that comes from a feeling of incompleteness. I was a virgin to the notion of romantic love. As ‘Five Years’ drew to a close, Bowie sang:
I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour, drinking milk shakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don't think you knew you were in this song.

And then I was touched by a new feeling. I was alone but now there was the hope that this loneliness might be removed forever by a girlfriend. I was alone but somewhere out there was a girl who would love me and I would love her. Our New Love would be magnificent, monumental, the stuff of legend! Fated to be together for all time, we would live our lives laughing at the world. And all the songs you ever heard were about this one simple truth: you would always be lonely until you found the one you would love at first sight. The one you would love and who would love you. All I had to do was to keep my eyes open for her. 
If you can slash your face by wearing the mark of a god, you are still a ghost who ignores the history of the sigil you wear and the debt you owe to the ones you haunt.
If you can put away the masks and puppets to uncover the face of the one you followed, this is still a ghost claiming another’s memories as his own.
Star and fan, adult and child: each one haunts the other, neither stands alone. Where is the face of the corpse to be found?
In the telephone box he stands waiting for the call; although the grave is only a cigarette away, still he savours the moment.

The opening line of Bowie’s last single “Lazarus’: “Look up here, I’m in heaven.’ 

Monday, January 04, 2016

Fey Exchange in JAAM 33

A big thanks to Kiri and Rosetta for such an interesting issue and for including my poem.

Summertime: I'm reading, writing, gardening--my long poem Night Music has been my main focus.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Walk on the Moor

Jennifer Compton has chosen ‘A Walk on the Moor’ for her Tuesday Poem this week.

I’m delighted that Jen’s chosen this as it keeps the poem alive—there are already some new readers.

This year we basically wound up the ain Tuesday Poem. It was a controversial decision given that the site had been running for more than five years. 

I’m going to keep posting the occasional Tuesday Poems on Notebook – it still uncertain what will Tuesday Poem’s place.

I’m going to write the blog in Baskerville for a while. My brother is in love with this typeface.

So my Tuesday Poems this week are three poems by Thérèse Lloyd.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday Poem: the last post

The Tuesday Poem has finally come to a curtain call. I’ve had a great time being active in this poetry circle and I’ve made some great friends on the way.  All projects come to end and the decision to wind-up Tuesday Poem just means that another project will spring up in its place.  A big thanks to Mary McCallum for starting TP and to all who have edited the site over the many years. Our final composite poem And I know now what I didn't know then by the Tuesday Poets is our last post.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

brief 53

My poems ‘At the Armageddon Expo’ and ‘Grand Theft Aotearoa’ have been published in brief 53 –the twentieth anniversary issue – by poetry editor Brett Cross along with poems by Erin Doyle, Ted Jenner, Mark Young, CarinSmeaton, Murray Edmond, Nick Ascroft, Stephanie Christie, Keith Nunes, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, Richard Taylor, Jack Ross, Olivia Macassey, Geum Hye Kim, Vaughan Rapatahana, Joel Chace, Sugu Pillay, Sarah Bogle, Manon Revuelta, Sid Khanzode,  and Richard von Sturmer. A big thanks to Brett for publishing the poems.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

People's Climate March

The march was a great success today.  The brass band created a village fare atmosphere.  As we entered Civic Square they were playing ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus’.  All good fun and the sun just shone.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

from Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

            Later, he’d walked by the open bathroom and heard her talking to herself as she removed her makeup.  “I repent nothing,” he heard her say to her reflection in the mirror.  He’d turned and walked away, but the words stayed with him.  Years later in Toronto, on the plywood second storey of the King Lear set, the words clarified the problem. He found he was a man who repented almost everything, regrets crowding in around him like moths to a light.  This was actually the main difference between twenty-one and fifty-one, he decided, the sheer volume of regret.  He had done some things he wasn’t proud of.  If Miranda was so unhappy in Hollywood, why hadn’t he just taken her away from there?  It wouldn’t have been difficult.  The way he’d dropped Miranda for Elizabeth and Elizabeth for Lydia and let Lydia slip away to someone else.  The way he’d let Tyler be taken to the other side of the world.  The way he’d spent his entire life chasing after something, money or fame or immortality or all of the above.  He didn’t really even know his own brother.  How many friendships had he neglected until they’d faded out?  On the first night of previews, he’d barely made it off the stage. On the second night, he’d arrived on the platform with a strategy. He stared at his crown and ran through a secret list of everything that was good.