Sunday, April 19, 2015

Books in: January--April 2015

Femme Fatale.  Maupassant.
The Graveyard Book. Neil Gaiman
Odd and the Frost Giants. Neil Gaiman
The World’s Fastest Flower. Charlotte Simmonds
The Night We Ate the Baby. Tim Upperton
Driving with Neruda.  Leonel Alvarado
Surface Tension. Joy Green.
Farther Away. Jonathan Franzen
The Zone of Interest. Martin Amis
Wild Nights.  Joyce Carol Oates.
The Fry Chronicles.  Stephen Fry
Shalimar the Clown. Shalman Rushdie
The Facades.  Eric Lungren
The Crane Wife.  Patrick Ness
The Stories of Raymond Carver.  Raymond Carver
The Daylight Gate.  Jeanette Winterson

The Rushdie, Amis, Franzen and Ness I bought at a book fair for Taran though I'll probably read the Franzen as I'm reading Strong Motion at present. The Maupassant was a mysterious gift from a lovely colleague at work--I found it in my mailbox one morning. It;s an excellent mini collection of stories and I'd be happy to read more Mauppassant.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Parting the Red Sea by Ellie Schoenfeld






Ellie’s a poet from Duluth, Minnesota . I’m currently reading her book The Dark Honey which I picked up from that great serendipitous deliverer of random ideas—the recently returned shelves of the Wellington Public Library (a true church if ever there was one).  

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Monday, April 13, 2015

ECO at Better Homes and Living Show


Here’s Michael Pringle, the Executive Office of ECO (the Environmental and ConservationOrganisations of NZ) and myself at the ECO stall at the Wellington Better Home and Living Show this weekend.  We talked to folks about conservation in New Zealand and signed people up for our free weekly newsletter.  I bought a copy of the New Zealand Organic Explorer and resisted the temptation to pet the kittens over at the SPCA stall. Good on the organisers of the show for letting a host of non-profit organisations such as ECO, SPCA, The Salvation Army, Safe Foods NZ, etc have stalls at the show.

To subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter Tieke, email eco AT eco.org.nz with "subscribe Tieke" in the subject.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Interview with Latika


There’s an interview with Latika Vasil about her life and work called Connecting the Dots over at the Indian Weekender.  I’d just like to thank Latika for all the support and valuable advice she’s given me over the years.  I’ve benefited so much from her support and careful eye—as well as a first-rate writer she’s also a wicked copy editor.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Amritsar






Here’s my reading of my poem ‘Amritsar’ which was first published last year in Takahe 82.  There’s an article on the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at Wikipedia

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Taran and Rohan at Makara



Latika took this yesterday at Makara Beach which is just down from where we live. In the background you can see our local wind farm.  We all just set off for a quick picnic. I sat looking at Mana Island and Kapiti Island behind it and just had this incredible ‘wow’ feeling that I still get from living here in Wellington.  Aotearoa is beautiful; Makara is so special, so invigorating.  I clambered over rock pools and then joined up with Latika and the lads and drank green tea. No complaints.



Today's good read: Alex McPherson on PJ Harvey's Let England Shake.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Better Home and Living Show

The Better Home and Living Show is on next weekend (10, 11, 12th of April) in Wellington at the Westpac Stadium.  I’ll be running the stall for ECO: the Environmental and Conservation Organisations of NZ—of which I’m an active  member—from 10Am till 2PM on Saturday, so stop by and say hello. Here’s a little blurb about the show from the website:  Packed with products and services for the home, the Better Home & Living Show will inform and inspire anyone wanting to improve their lifestyle in a sustainable way. Featuring the latest eco-trends and innovations for indoors and out, massive show-only specials, countless ideas and free daily seminars, it’s an event not to be missed. Better still, you’ll find it all under the one roof!




Today's good read: Carbon Capture: Has climate change made it harder for people to care about conservation?  Jonathan Franzen.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Hoopla Launch


The books to launched at the Fringe Bar are Mr. Clean and the Junkie by Jennifer Compton; Native Bird by Bryan Walpert and Bones in the Octagon by Carolyn McCurdie.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Joy Green reads her poetry.



I went to a great launch last week at Victoria Books of three books from the new Manawatu Press Hau Nui. The launch had the snappy title of Three Poets and  a Scoop. I bought Tim Upperton’s The night weate the Baby, Leonel Alvarado’s Driving with Neruda to the Fish ‘n’ Chips and Joy Green’s Surface Tension in a custom-made kete.  It looks great sitting on my bookcase and I will read it as soon as I finish Charlotte  Simmond’s The World’s Fastest Flower.  The video here is of Joy Green reading.  It was a really cool launch—a very warm, relaxed atmosphere.

 The kete.

Friday, March 27, 2015

'Punch' In Phantom Billstickers


My poem ‘Punch’ has been published in Vol5 5 of the Phantom Billstickers CafĂȘ Reader along with poems by Cliff Fell and MichaelO’Leary.  The design, by CONJURE, is a treat and Phantom Billstickers sent me a t-shirt in the mail along with a cheque. I’m very happy to be published by them—the Reader is a great piece of design, intriguing content and free.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The NZ Poetry Society Annual Poetry Competition is open

I’m delighted  to be judging the open section of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s Annual Poetry & Haiku competition which closes on 31st May. Entry forms, including those for schools, are available on the website, at :http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/2015competition

Cash prizes include $500 for the top poem (judged by me) and $100 each for the top 5 haiku (judged by Elaine Riddell), plus an extra $150 from the Jeanette Stace Poetry Trust for the First Prize winning haiku. There are also junior sections for both types of poem, with top prizes of $200 (verse) and $150 (haiku). The junior sections are further divided into age groups: up to 13 years, and 14-17 years.

For 2015 only, there is an extra section: in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, the NZPS invitse you to write poems on the theme of Gallipoli. Unless otherwise directed, we'll enter all poems on this theme into the extra section. There will be a single prize of $100 for senior entries and $50 for the junior entry (17 years or younger).

Prize-winning poems will be published in the NZ Poetry Society's annual poetry anthology, to be released in November 2015. All entries are eligible for selection for the anthology, which will be carried out by an independent editor. Purchase of the anthology is not a requirement for having a poem included.

Our mailing address is:
The New Zealand Poetry Society Inc.
PO Box 5283
Lambton Quay
Wellington, Wellington 6145
New Zealand

Friday, February 27, 2015

Playlist: Sausages & Oil


  1. Don't Go    Lonesome Sundown
  2. Time Passes Slowly #1 [Alternate Version]   Bob Dylan 
  3. On Battleship Hill   PJ Harvey
  4. You And Me    Damon Albarn 
  5. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards   Tame Impala
  6. Iota  Angel Olsen
  7. Just Make It Stop   Low
  8. A Dog's Life    Wild Beasts
  9. A Dash Of Salt (Ludwig's Theme)   Alexandre Desplat
  10. Violin Concerto In D, Op. 61 - 2. Larghetto     Beethoven.
  11. I Know Why Red Garland
  12. Gone Again (from"Groovy")     Red Garland
  13. My One And Only Love Grant Green
  14. I Will    Sky Ferreira     



The sinus cold became an infection and my voice crashed. I went to the docs on Wednesday and was ordered bed rest and antibiotics.  The year has got off to a wobbly start.  I slept so much.  I’m just looking forward to getting back onto the swing of things. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

First Week Back

All was going well until yesterday I ran smack into a nasty sinus cold which has turned my voice to sandpaper—and I'm still recovering from surgery.  Rats.  But, still, it's a cold not a flu, so I'll be OK. This I finished another Fables album Storybook Love and Charles Simic’s brilliantly understated Master of Disguises. (Here's a review of Simic’s book by Robert Winkler at the New York Journal of Books.) At least I wasn’t crook for the Summer Shakespeare Timon of Athens;  this is an odd, very philosophically-driven piece somewhat hampered by the lead character being a bit of a plonker and the old deus ex machina ending of the ‘now the army’s taken over everything’s gonna be alright.’ Yet for me it has a certain charm; I remember reading the play as an undergraduate back in the early 80s and being stuck by how important the ideas were in the play; it's like a performed Socratic dialogue. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

In Real Life



I’ve seen the proof for my poem ‘Punch’ which is to be published at the end of March in the Phantom Billboard CafĂ© Reader.  I’m very excited by the designer’s choice of a creepy colour illustration, I suspect Victorian, of Punch and Judy—it’s perfect for the poem.  I finished Cory Doctorow and Jen wang’s InReal Life which addresses online and real Life economics and I’m struck by how the depiction of gaming matches those mid-90s ideas we had of the combination of VR and The Net (it was ‘The Net’ back then, not just ‘apps’ or ‘social media’).  I never really bought into VR as I suspect that there would be innumerable snags. It’s the more subtle technologies that sometimes pack the biggest punches to life as we know it.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Sylvia Plath reads 'The Stones.'



I finished Anne Stevenson’s Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath this afternoon.  Stevenson received a great deal of flak for this biography which dared to portray Plath as less than perfect. Yet the Plath that emerges here is complex, flawed, crazy, impossible, ambitious, brilliant and burning a little too brightly for this world. Even Dido Merwin’s incredible account of Plath and Hughes stay with them in France—a vitriolic, frank, compelling piece of writing that notes how Plath wolfed down a whole stash of foie gras ‘liked Aunt Dot’s meatloaf’—only serves to make Plath all the more real to me.  Read Plath at eighteen and you are marked for life. Well, I was anyway. This year I’m putting together a unit of work for Scholarship students introducing them to Plath’s work,  And my surgery?  I went to Outpatients this afternoon and had the dressing removed. It’s tender but looking fine.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Friday, February 06, 2015

John Coltrane


I first heard Coltrane back in 1981.  My friend Scot had just moved into a flat behind the Greengrocers in the Kelburn shops. It was a fantastic flat with a bunk bed in the lounge that you could kip in. Scott had an eclectic, comprehensive musical taste embracing jazz, post-punk, disco, musical soundtracks, avant-garde composers and the classics as well as more money for records than me. I was really quite skint back then. I really owe my introduction to both Coltrane and The Fall to Scott; it was from these sessions that my own small world of music was greatly expanded. Sure, I’d heard jazz before—I remember that I had a Glen Miller hits record I’d thrashed through 1979 as we came off the tail-end of a swing retro vibe that was oddly co-emergent with punk —fr’instance the 'Glen Miller is Missing’ song in Rock Follies—and I’d loved the Benny Goodman Story film I’d seen on TV a few times.  Scott put on Trane’s Bye Bye Blackbird recorded live in Paris and within forty minutes my understanding of music was changed forever. The following year he would play me The Fall's ‘Fiery Jack’ the night before I would leave his flat to go to travel to India for a few months.  I finished Paolo Parisi’s graphic biography Coltrane this afternoon. I like the drawings but the narrative is here is too thin and I suspect the book would mean little to uninitiated readers.

I changed the dressing again today and I am going to have a massive scar on my neck.  

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Are you my Mother? Alison Bechdel

This is the companion volume to Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.  Here Bechdel presents a hall of mirrors ‘meta-book’; a reflection on writing about her mother, her relationships and her analysis.  The mother is one figure in a series of mother-daughter relationships played out through transference in analysis: it’s all finally about the re-working of experience into a highly biographical art.  It’s intelligent, engaging and at times a little hard-going: this is an unusual combination of scholarly research—I learnt a great deal about Winnicott—and autobiography. It’s staggeringly brilliant and has started me reflecting on my own relationship with my parents.  It’d taken me quite a while to read the book.  I had my dressing changed by the nurse at the medical centre.  I wasn't sure I'd changed it right and when I called the hospital they said to go and see the nurse.  She changed the dressing and said that it looked fine.  I’m feeling more energetic though I have slept an awful lot today.  

Tuesday Poem: Being Christlike by Ted Hughes.






This is from Ted Hughes’ The Birthday Letters which I’m reading alongside Anne Stevenson’s biography of Plath.


Off to see the nurse this afternoon to make sure that the dressing over the wound is OK. I changed it yesterday but I think I should have removed some transparent tape and I've not sealed the dressing properly.  I’m feeling pretty good but when I sleep it’s like diving into a dark pool – relief when you resurface.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Post-op

Well, the surgery is over and done with and now I’m at home, resting, sleeping during the daytime, reading, keep up with work email, trying to focus on the school year ahead.  Food tastes OK so I guess I’m managing just fine without one of my salivary glands.  I’m in remarkably little pain and I have boxes of panadol and ibuprofen that I’m not using.  I read Ian Rankin’s Let it Bleed in hospital and while the atmosphere is great I confess to not being able to follow the tangled thread of the plot.  I’ve been able to work on a poem—tentatively entitled ‘Aeon’—during this time.  I finished Guy Delisle’s Shenzen: A Travelogue from China which Latika has also read and enjoyed. The book was a present from my family secret Santa (who I suspect to be Rohan.) We have set up a graphic novel shelf on out bookcase.  Let the collecting begin!