30 December 2009

Artemisia Gentileschi

When I did my reading at the Poetry Society in October, the last poem I read was 'Artemisia Gentileschi'. It's a long poem, and each section refers to a painting of hers - in describing it, she's kind of telling the story of her life. When I wrote it I hoped that the reader would be able to imagine the paintings in their mind from what I described - at least enough for the poem to work. And I think people can, but the twice I've performed this with slides of the paintings projected behind me, I've got a really good reaction.

Recently I got an email from an English lecturer from Vienna who is going to be teaching a course about fictional biographies. She'd come across a mention of 'Artemisia Gentileschi' and wanted to know where she could get her hands on it. That course seemed right up my poetic alley, so I sent her my book. Students in Vienna might be studying my work!

Both of these things had led me to think that it might be helpful to link the paintings with the poem. Rather than breaching anyone's copyright by including the images on this blog, I'm going to link the titles of sections to the painting it refers to. Hopefully it will add a new element to the poem. (Links should open in a new tab or window.)

Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593–circa 1642

Woman Playing a Lute, circa 1610

She seems naïve to me now
holding the lute
across her body
as she looks
towards the sky
My father taught
me to paint
‘You are very precocious’
he said, ‘for a girl’
but he thought some extra
tuition in technique
would be beneficial
And Tassi certainly taught me
I learned my lesson well

Susanna and the Elders, 1610

Susanna is a serpentine S
as she twists away
from the gaze
from the faces of the
lechers, one old
one younger
They taunt her, they
whisper as they refuse
to share the paints, as they
leave her only the worst brushes
‘Hey girl,’ they say, ‘I’d like
to get a lick of you’
‘She can’t be a virgin
just look at that mouth’
The other men, the judges
heard evidence that
indeed I was a virgin
until, by force
and I swore to it as they tightened
the thumbscrews
Tassi was out of jail
by the next time it rained

Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1612–1613

Your eye is drawn
to the place where their arms
all meet
Holofernes, the tyrant
lies back, tangled
in the sheet while
Judith, with calm
precision, slices off
his head
Abra, her maid, has the trace
of a smile
as she holds him down
The blood on the bedclothes
is the same colour
as Abra’s dress
You may note
that Holofernes
bears a striking resemblance
to Tassi

Judith and Her Maidservant, circa 1613–1614

Judith and Abra
have done their deed
and changed their clothes
Tassi’s head
is in a basket, his blood leaks
between the weaving – a detail
of which I am especially proud
Judith and Abra
are escaping
the enemy camp, but
hearing a sound
they look back, out of the painting
to the right
The sword is flung
casually over my shoulder
They will escape

Jael and Sisera, 1620

Jael was a heroine
of the Israelites
a woman of action
She isn’t afraid
of getting her hands dirty
getting a bit of blood
on her saffron dress
Sisera appears to be asleep
almost curled
on her lap, his head resting
on his arm
Jael’s hammer almost
disappears at the top
of the canvas, her arm stretched up
and the tent peg resting
below his right ear
The pounding is about to begin

Judith Beheading Holofernes, circa 1620

There is more force
this time
and the blood spurts
like a fountain, staining
the sheets
I admit
I still have some issues

Lucretia, circa 1621

Lucretia was a woman of honour
a virtuous wife
who couldn’t bear the shame
She kneels on the bed
her knee and shoulder
catching the light
She looks skyward, like
the lute player, but she contemplates
not God but her dagger, glinting
in the shadows, that she holds
in her left hand
She grasps her tempting breast
and imagines plunging
the knife through and into
her heart, over and over
again and again
until she is split
with the pain, she’ll kick
and bite and bloody
the bedclothes, cry
for it to stop stop
stop and then
in the next moment she will not
as the story would have you believe
make herself a victim
again – instead she will throw down the blade
draw her petticoat closed
put on her dress
and go back
to her studio

Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting, 1630

My shoulder
in my favourite green gown
protrudes from the picture plane
towards you
I am paused, caught
in the act of painting
I am both artist and model
both creator and muse
a perfect synthesis
Igegno – a genius light
strikes my forehead
My painterly arm
is strong

29 December 2009

End of the year

And, in fact, the end of the decade. This probably comes as no surprise to you, but it keeps on surprising me. How did this decade go so fast? It was the fastest decade ever. Crazy! I guess I've done some stuff and all, but surely not a decade's worth.

At the end of every year (and around my birthday, and around pretty much any other opportunity) I reflect on stuff that I've done, and stuff that I want to do, especially related to writing. This is generally a little bit depressing (is that all I've done?) but also hopeful as I think about what I'm planning to do. And now I have to start doing it, or perhaps not until Friday.

My major writing goal for the year is finish Cinema, and also to submit more poems to journals (only one submission in the last six months? Feeble!).

What are yours?

13 December 2009

Coming back to myself

(Weirdly, after writing the first draft of this, I found I’d written a very similar post around this time last year – perhaps its part of my annual cycle - though it does make me think that I haven't learned anything.)

For most of this year a lot of my non-day-job work has been publishing stuff – I’ve been wearing my publisher hat with JAAM magazine, and as Seraph Press I’ve published a record two books this year – Watching for Smoke by Helen Heath, and Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, by Vana Manasiadis. (I’ve previously averaged about one book every year-and-a-half.) And it isn’t that my publishing responsibilities are over – there’s still my attempts at publicity and distribution for those aforementioned publications, and the next issue of JAAM to prepare for, but ever since I signed off the print proofs for Ithaca I started feeling like it was time to take a look at my own writing again, and, even, that I had a little bit of spare time in which I could do that. Since then I’ve written a few things – mostly poems and mostly fairly mediocre, but that’s ok. I think what what to do now is take stock of where I’m at, and what I have.

One of my goals for this year was to have finished a draft of Cinema – my movie-inspired poems that I hope will become my next collection. I’m pretty sure I haven’t done that – I think I probably have enough-ish poems, but not enough poems that are good enough, and that work together to do what I want them to do. What I want them to do is work individually and together to create something of meaning.

When I started on this project I was kind of steering clear of the personal in my poetry. I’ve been reluctant to write too much about myself, because it feels self-indulgent. I guess that probably comes from having written so many dreadful teen-angst poems about how I felt (usually misunderstood, disappointed, unappreciated and frequently infatuated). But lately, considering what I really love in other people’s poetry (and even some of my own) is when they manage to turn personal stories or details into something bigger than themselves. I’ve appreciated that in both the books I’ve just published. The personal can give you, the reader, something to connect to (though it can also alienate you, of course, if it doesn’t work for you). I think that connection is maybe what I want a bit more of in Cinema.

Something I didn’t expect to do this year was write a long poem sequence about a (literal and kind of psychological) journey. But I did. In one day. One of my next tasks is to revise that and then kick it out for a reader or two to have a read of it, and then see what is to be done with it.

Another thing I need to do is send out some more submissions to literary journals – it’s been a while.

And I think it’s time to restart my ‘weekly’ writing reports to Clare (my last one was in August – I think they were mostly sort of bi-monthly before that). I find they help me keep track of what I’m up to and keep me motivated.

So, yeah, I’m back on the wagon.

12 December 2009

Places to buy Ithaca

Excitingly, you can now buy Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima by Vana Manasiadis not only from me, and from the wonderful Unity Books in Wellington, but also from the PaperGraphica website. PaperGraphica is the gallery that represents Marian Maguire, who is the artist whose work features on the front cover of the book, and amongst whose artwork we launched Ithaca last week. Hopefully some people who are interested in Marian's art might be interested in Vana's book.

It's particularly cool, because Vana is listed as one of the artists. The other cool thing is that because it's an e-commerce site, from this page about the book people can just click 'purchase, and buy it. I hope lots of people do!

Also, you could waltz in to your local bookshop and ask them to order it for you. They might want to know the ISBN, which is: 978-0-473-15235-2.

03 December 2009

Ithaca launched

The author arrived from Crete on Monday, the book arrived from the printers on Tuesday, and we launched Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima by Vana Manasiadis on Wednesday - last night. It was great.

The Adam Art Gallery was the perfect venue, as the launch took place among Greek vases and Greek-vase-inspired lithographs (by Marian Maguire, whose artwork, as I've said before, graces the cover of Ithaca).

Damien Wilkins, who was the course convener of Vana's masters in creative writing class, launched the book. He had been around during its genesis, and so it was appropriate he should send it out into the world. He'd read it in its earlier incarnation as Vana's masters portfolio, and said that, reading it again, it seemed to have gotten younger. I think I know what he means. While it was almost all there in that earlier form, the work Vana has done on it over the last few years have made each poem sharper, more of what it is.

Vana got lots of compliments on her poems, and I got lots of compliments for how beautiful the book looks, Marian (who was able to be at the launch, which was lovely) got lots of compliments about her artwork (both on the wall and on the book), and me and my mum got lots of compliments about the catering. Yay!

Thanks to all who came and celebrated with us, and thanks for buying so many books. I really hope this book finds the audience it deserves (a big one), and we've made a good start so far.

Copies of Ithaca are now available from Unity Books in Wellington (I dropped them off today), can be ordered through bookshops, or can be ordered directly through me (email me at seraphpress@paradise.net.nz).

Ok, it's been an exhausting week, and now it's time to go to bed...

30 November 2009

JAAM 28 call for submissions

Just briefly (cos I'm busy getting myself together for the launch of Ithaca Island Bay Leaves on Wednesday (pleased to hear the author has arrived safe and sound from Crete today!)) I wanted to let you all know that we've (finally) put out the call for submissions for JAAM 28.

It's going to be called DanceDanceDance, and we're looking for dancing words and images. Read the call for submissions on the JAAM site, and interpret it as you will.

This issue is going to be edited by Clare Needham and me (we're the co-managing editors of JAAM). We've been planning and plotting it for a while. Clare is going to write a fuller blog post about the genesis of this idea soon, but basically she's worked as a dance producer and got interested in the metaphorical, and actual, possibilities of dance.

Don't be put off if you have two left feet - in fact you could even write about that!

More here: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2009/11/29/call-for-submissions-for-jaam-28-dancedancedance/.

22 November 2009

Ithaca Island Bay Leaves launching

The venue is all confirmed, the book has gone to the printers (just need to sign off the final proof on Monday), and I'm starting to plan the refreshments.

We're going to be launching Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: a mythistorima - the debut poetry collection of Vana Manasiadis, on Wednesday 2nd December, at 6.30 pm, at the Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University.

As I said in a previous post, we'll be launching it amongst ancient Greek vases and modern New Zealand lithographs by Marian Maguire (whose art we're using on the cover of Ithaca) that combine ancient-Greek-vase-ish imagery with 19th-century New Zealand history.

Damien Wilkins will be doing the launching honours. And Vana, who will have just gotten back from Crete where she's been living for the last almost 3 years (I can't believe it's been so long since I've seen her!) will read some poems. I'm really looking forward to this launch, and getting this book out into the world. It's had a long journey.

Come help us celebrate.

18 November 2009

Where can I get me a copy of Watching for Smoke?

Well, seeing as you asked: if you don't already have one, you can get yourself your very own, made-with-love copy of Watching for Smoke, by Helen Heath by:
  • buying a copy off either myself or Helen, if you should be lucky enough to know one or other or both of us personally
  • emailing me at seraphpressATparadise.net.nz to order a copy
  • buying it off Helen's Etsy shop - she just popped it up today, complete with some lovely, lovely photos
  • buying it Unity Books Wellington, if you wait a few more days until I take in the copies for them
  • asking your nice, friendly local bookshop to order a copy from me - they might like to know the ISBN, which is 978-0-473-15379-3.
I've also just updated my Seraph Press website - an uncommon occurrence I'm afraid - to include information about Watching for Smoke, and the upcoming (soon!) Ithaca Island Bay Leaves, by Vana Manasiadis.

15 November 2009

Ithaca Island Bay Leaves update

As I mentioned below, I've been pretty busy getting Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: a mythistorima by Vana Manasiadis all finished so I can get it printed. I'm almost, almost there.

I can now present the cover, which features a wonderful lithograph by Christchurch artist Marian Maguire, entitled Athena Observes a Fracas. This image is particularly appropriate as it introduces Greek mythology into a New Zealand context in a similar way to what Vana does in many of her poems.

Marian does this in quite a few of her works, including the series this print comes from (The Odyssey of Captain Cook), and also in a more recent series, The Labours of Herakles, in which Herakles ends up in colonial New Zealand. I'm totally delighted that we're going to be able to launch Ithaca in the middle of The Labours of Herakles (and several ancient Greek vases - safely housed in sturdy cabinets) in the Adam Art Gallery. What could be more perfect! You can see some more of Marian's work on the Papergraphica gallery website.

As a taster for Ithaca, here's the blurb from the back cover:
the ocean is what I’m standing in – one tiptoe on the Pacific rim and one not.
(‘Talking Tectonics’)

Part family exploration, part personal narrative, this haunting and delicate debut collection weaves the mythic into the everyday.

Drawing on her Greek heritage, Vana Manasiadis has Icarus crashing in Wellington storm, Theseus as a DOC ranger, and her grandfather, grandmother and mother threading their way through times, places and incarnations.

Exploring the ex patria feeling of ‘being here and being there,’ she sews together Greece and New Zealand to create a playful and deeply moving journey.

Charlotte Simmonds at this month's Poetry Society meeting

This month's Poetry Society meeting is actually tomorrow, which seems to have come rather quickly. (This whole year has gone terrifyingly quickly, and this next less-than-three weeks before we launch Ithaca Island Bay Leaves will go very quickly. It's almost ready to go to the printers though, so I'm confident that it will all be done in good time.)

Charlotte Simmonds, this month's guest reader, is the author of The World's Fastest Flower, which was published last year and was a finalist in the Best First Book category of the book awards. I had heard good things about it from my friend Emma, who, when she first read it, enjoyed it so much that as soon as she finished it she started reading it again from the beginning.

I realised, after hearing that she was the next guest reader, that I'd seen/heard her read at a couple of open-mic poetry readings, and had been really impressed both times. So I decided I'd read her book before the reading, and I really enjoyed it.

How to describe it? It's a bit different, and thank goodness for that. It's like a breath of fresh, youthful air. It's not all necessarily easy poetry, but it isn't dense or dry. It isn't what you'd expect - or, at least, it isn't what I've come to expect.

There's a prose-poetryness about many of the poems, with lots of long lines, little narratives. But the language is playful and intense. Sometimes the poems were clear, sometimes they made no sense, but only a few didn't grab me. Many of the poems seemed very personal, raw even, but the narrative voices/personas are different from each other, and many are clearly not the poet (or at least not a straight-forward version of the poet), so it's a bit more complicated.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing her read. If you want to go along too, the details are:

Monday 16 November, 7.30 pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St
Entry: $2
The meeting will open, as always, with an open mic.

08 November 2009

Two new reviews of My Iron Spine

I’ve had two more (favourable) reviews of My Iron Spine recently.

The first was a brief review by the lovely Siobhan Harvey in Poetry NZ 39. She says it ‘underpins its author’s feminist concerns with a forceful poeticism’ and I am ‘at her best when lyrically reinventing the voices, lives and difficulties of the famous and infamous.’ She mentions ‘Handicrafts with Minnie Dean’, ‘Kate Sheppard and I go for a ride’ and ‘Partying with Katherine Mansfield’ as ‘just a few examples of Rickerby’s success throughout My Iron Spine in breathing new and cadent life into a faux-mythical cast.’

The second review was on the blog of Jennifer Sullivan, a US poet I’ve gotten to know on the net, due to our common interest in poet Anne Carson. So you can read the whole thing over there. But to make myself feel happy I’m going to quote my fav bits. She says that My Iron Spine is: ‘poignant, witty, tender, fun, and moving’, and says about the first section, ‘Flashes of déjà vu’: A charming voice waltzes through the narrative, saying things like, ‘I was playing hungry / hungry hippos / when my grandmother died’ or ‘I wonder / if the Kingdom of Heaven / is like the Titanic– / not enough lifeboats.’ Then she goes on to say lovely things about the other two sections, and even says that sometimes the book is akin to the work of our common idol, Anne Carson. High praise indeed.

01 November 2009

Watching for Smoke launch, and my Poetry Society reading

I’ve been a bit quiet lately. While this has partly been because my computer is still being fixed (Dad has replaced so many bits of it, in order to find out what wasn’t working, it’s going to end up as a different computer altogether), mainly I’ve just been recovering from a whole bunch of things, including the launch we had for the latest Seraph Press book, Watching for Smoke by Helen Heath (and getting lots of books made beforehand), and the reading I did at the Poetry Society the day after.

Watching for Smoke launch

This was lots of fun. I’d gotten a bit anxious because instead of arriving an hour beforehand to set up, as I planned, we got there with 15 minutes to spare due to a girl falling off her motorbike close to our place, and my kind friends bringing her up to the house to have a cup of tea and attend to her grazes. I needn’t have worried though – there were already people in the kitchen putting jam and cream on pikelets, and my team of family and friends helped us finishing setting up in record time (thanks guys!).

Being in an old church hall (St Peters in Paekakariki), and with treats such as the aforementioned pikelets, it had the feeling of a ‘ladies-a-plate’ sort of event, but in the best possible way. Kids ran around, or danced to the fabulous music of Dan, Stefan, and another musician whose name I’m afraid I didn’t catch.

Dinah Hawken launched the book. As well as being a poet admired both Helen and myself, Dinah is Helen’s supervisor for her MA in creative writing. (Helen will be putting the finishing touches to her portfolio, perhaps at this very moment.) Dinah said lots of lovely things about the book and about Helen’s poetry in general. She also said that she kind of wished that all poetry books could be just little books, like this chapbook, rather than having to be larger volumes. While I’m a fan of larger poetry books too, there is something very satisfying about the smallness and concentration of a chapbook.

Helen then talked and read a few poems, including one not from Watching for Smoke which she read especially for her father. We sold quite a few books, but I still have a few left (and a few left to make – though not too many). If you want to buy one, I’ll sell them to you for $15 direct – just email me at Helen.RickerbyATparadise.net.nz. Unity Books in Wellington will have some soon, where they’ll be $20.

Voyagers event and my reading at the Poetry Society

It was a bit of a busy day – immediately before my reading I attended the Wellington event for the Voyagers New Zealand science fiction poetry anthology publicity tour. (This must be the best-publicised book in NZ in recent history – and it’s actually published by an Australian
company.) Co-editor Tim Jones, who was MCing, kindly let me read first, so I could sneak off early to get myself together. I was very sorry to have missed most of the other readers, but I did end up really needing the time to get a bite to eat and, mainly, spend ages mucking around with my friend Angelina’s computer to get the datashow working. Actually, I didn’t muck around with it much, it was mainly my new heroes Angelina and Poetry-Society attendee Lonnard, who finally beat it into submission – or rather facilitated communication between the computer and the projector.

As always, the reading began with an open mic, and I thought it an especially good one. One of the highlights was Harvey Molloy reciting 'Caedmon’s Hymn' in Old English.

Everyone was wondering what I was going to do with the datashow, but I started off my reading low-tech, so they had to wait. I read some of my new poems that are playing with various ideas related to cinema, and then I showed them my wee video poem, ‘Calling you home’.

The main thing I used the datashow for was just to show an image while I read my poems. I’d tried this at my reading in Palmerston North in May, and it seemed to go well. So I expanded it a bit this time and while reading poems from My Iron Spine about women from history, I showed an image of the woman the poem was about (except Marie Curie, for whom I was unable to find a picture before my borrowed computer refused to connect to the internet any more that afternoon). So I had pictures of Kate Sheppard, Minnie Dean, Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. My final poem was ‘Artemisia Gentileschi’, which is basically talking about her life while talking about her paintings, so it was really great to be able to have people look at the paintings while listening to the poem. It made a lot more sense to a lot of people, and I think helped them to get the funny bits (there are one or two) in the middle of what is mostly a fairly grim, raw poem (it gets much more hopeful at the end).

We had quite a lively question time, and my favourite question I think, was ‘Did you realise that all those women looked like you?’ I didn’t, and I still don’t really think they do.

16 October 2009

Invitations to stuff

If I haven't yet invited you to either the Watching for Smoke book launch (Sunday 3.30 St Peter's Hall Paekakariki) or my reading at the Poetry Society on Monday (7.30 Thistle Inn 3 Mulgrave Steet Thorndon), then I have probably lost your email address (hopefully temporarily) when my computer died (but the hard drive is hopefully ok), or you live out of town and I thought it was to far for you to come. I have discovered that, while Facebook is kind of a bit waste of time, it is really good for inviting people to stuff.

The other thing I should invite you all to is a reading for the Voyagers science fiction poetry anthology. We contributors are reading at the Wellington Central Library at 5.30 on Monday (just before my Poetry Society reading). There's also a reading at the Paraparaumu library on Tuesday at 5.30 (but I'm not entirely certain if I can make that).

There are Voyagers readings all around the country - Dunedin last night, Christchurch tonight, and after Wellington there will be some in Auckland. I think this is one of the best-promoted books I can remember, ever. (Oh except perhaps those boy wizard books and anything by Dan Brown.)

08 October 2009

Launching Watching for Smoke

Come along to help us celebrate the launch of:

Watching for Smoke

by Helen Heath.

on Sunday 18th October at 3.30 pm in St Peter’s Hall, Beach Road, Paekakariki.

This hand-bound poetry chapbook will be launched by Dinah Hawken, and will be available for sale at $15 (RRP $20).

There will be bubbly, there will be scones, there will most likely be tea and coffee, there will be music. We hope you can come.

This is the first of two books I (ie Seraph Press) am (is) publishing this year. I'm already starting to organise the launch for the next one (Ithaca Island Bay Leaves), which will likely be very very early December.

22 September 2009

Go wandering with JAAM 27

This isn't a real blog post - this is just to say that JAAM 27, gorgeous thing that it is, is in the process of being released to the world. And you can read more about it in the media release I just posted over on the JAAM website: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/go-wandering-with-jaam-27/.

12 September 2009

I read at the Poetry Society

And, this is my 200th post, so I wanted to do something a bit special with it – which is to announce that I’m going to be the guest reader at the October meeting of the Poetry Society! I’m very excited about this and I hope you will be able to come.

It's going to be on Monday 19 October, 7.30 pm, upstairs at The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St.

I’m going to read a mixture of new stuff and poems from My Iron Spine. All going well, I'm going to spice it up a bit with a little bit of multi-media, as I did at the reading I did in Palmerston North in May.

This will be the second time I've been a guest reader at the Poetry Society. The first time was long, long ago - more than a decade ago - when I was guest reader with Ingrid Horrocks and Paul Wolffram. We were new, young poets. It was very exciting to have people take us seriously. But then, I'm always excited to be taken seriously.

Lewis Scott at Poetry Society

African-American-New-Zealand jazz poet L E Scott is the guest reader at this month's poetry society meeting. He's always a great performer.

Monday 21 September, 7.30pm
Upstairs at The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street

The meeting will open, as always, with an open mic. Entry: $2.

02 September 2009

Stuff to know about: Fantastic Voyages - Writing Speculative Fiction

And the next night you could go to:
That's probably all the info you need to know, but there's more here on Tim Jones's blog: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2009/08/fantastic-voyages-writing-speculative.html

Stuff to know about: Blackmail Press 25 and Wellington launch

Blackmail Press 25: The Rebel Issue, edited by Sarah Barnett and Bill Nelson, went live today. I'm fortunate enough to have had a couple of poems selected: 'The happiness of Mary Shelley' and 'Jesus Christ, Saviour'.

Mary Shelley was a bit of a rebel, especially in her younger days. I wrote this poem for My Iron Spine, and it was in there until the very last, when I decided it wasn't quite right and that the book would benefit from being a bit shorter. It was a hard decision, as I'm very fond of it. I'm glad it's found a home, and I hope I'll find a collection for it to fit into some time.

'Jesus Christ, Saviour' is actually about the actor Klaus Kinski rather than Jesus Christ himself, though both were rebels in their own ways. It's my response to watching a documentary of Klaus Kinski doing his performance peice called 'Jesus Christ, Saviour' in 1971 - it was pretty intense and pretty amazing.

I'm delighted to be in the issue with many fabulous folks, including Harvey Molloy, (with his poem 'Closer' - I've seen an earlier version of this, and I really think Harvey has nailed it with this version), Siobhan Harvey, Kate Camp, Janet Freegard and many others. Special mention goes to Marcel Currin, whose two short prose peices had me shreiking with laughter on my quick nose through.

And, as promised in the title, Harvey Molloy organised a Wellington launch for Blackmail Press 25. Details below:

01 September 2009

Stuff to know about: Enamel submissions close soon

Submissions for the second issue of Enamel close at the end of September.

I'm sure that, like me, you'll submit only just before the deadline. Check out the submission guidelines here: http://enamelmag.blogspot.com/2009/03/submission-guidelines.html.

The first issue was lovely - definitely the best-looking first issue of a literary mag I ever saw. I'm looking forward to the second already.

Stuff to know about: Poets for Princess Ashika

Poets for Princess Ashika: Love, Loss and the Sea

Fundraiser for the victims of the Princess Ashika Ferry Disaster in Tonga featuring Poets Karlo Mila, Apirana Taylor, David Geary and Glenn Colquhoun, and Te Roopu Kapa Haka o Paekakariki

2 pm Saturday, 5 September at Paekakariki Memorial Hall, The Parade (next to Campbell Park),

Koha entry. Afternoon tea. Bring some biccies if you can! Gold coin raffle.

For more info: http://nzlive.com/en/nzlivecom/poets-for-princess-ashika-love-loss-and-the-sea

30 August 2009

Waiting for Watching for Smoke

Actually, I'm not waiting at all, because it won't get finished if I just sit around. Instead I'm working towards Watching for Smoke, the poetry chapbook by Helen Heath, which I'm (ie Seraph Press) about to publish/am in the process of publishing.

From the very first, when I suggested a chapbook to Helen, it was quickly obvious it was going to have to be something special. Of course, all the books I publish are special - I don't publish very much, and I'm totally in love with everything I do publish; I feel I have to be - it's not as if I have a surfeit of time to just throw away. But one of the first things Helen mentioned when we first talked about this book was knitting needles.

If you know Helen, or read her blog, you'll know that as well as being an accomplished poet, she's pretty crafty. Crafts are even mentioned in one of the poems, 'Hooks and needles': 'those hooks / those needles / what we craft.//We make our beds / and sometimes / we bleed on them'. So knitting needles incorporated into the book seemed very appropriate. But how? It sent my mind spinning in various directions, and I've made quite a few prototypes, to see what might work and what won't.

I've also talked to lots of people, who have given me lots of ideas. This has been quite a collaborative process, particularly with Helen herself, but thanks also to Emma, who suggested the grey card, Lesley, who gave me some ideas about how to cut it, and Art-and-my-life Pauline, who sent me a consignment of knitting needles all the way from Mosgiel.

So now I have a final design. The books will have a wrap-around cover, which will fasten with a knitting needle or crochet hook (mostly needles - crochet hooks are hard to come by cheap), and will have a cut-out through which the title shows. They're going to be beautiful - fittingly so, to match the poems they contain. The cover is the aforementioned grey card (the colour is 'Twilight' in English, and 'Crépuscule' in French), and it's all going to be bound together with red hemp thread (the same thread I used with yellow covers on Scarab). I'll have pictures soon!

So now I'm working on how to make it happen - and happen 100 times. It is involving much fiddly cutting, but I've been inventing ways to make it all a bit easier and repeatable. I've been using those problem-solving skills you're always supposed to demonstrate in performance reviews. I've made templates out of bits of plastic from some folder I found in the study and which neither Sean nor I were particularly attached to, and using not one but two different kinds of craft knife.

Getting the text pages printed was the easy part - I sent my pdf off to the lovely folks at Wakefields Digital (who remain my fav printers) and a full of beautifully printed and folded arrived on my doorstep a couple of days later.

So I'm going to spend the rest of today constructing more of these little treasures. Fortunately I don't have to get them all done at once, but I do need to get enough done for Helen to take to Palmerston North on Wednesday, for her guest reading at Stand Up Poetry at the Palmerston North Public Library.

And watch this space for details of the launch we're planning to welcome Watching for Smoke into the world - probably late-ish in October.

29 August 2009

Farewell Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

Like everyone else in the local poetry community, I was really sad to hear of Alistair Campbell’s recent death. It was nice to be able to remember him at the Voyagers launch with others who knew him.

I met Alistair Campbell a couple of times, though I certainly wouldn’t say I knew him. I was lucky enough to have heard him read a few times, and after I’d proofread It’s Love Isn’t It? – the wonderful collection of poems by Alistair and Meg Campbell that Mark Pirie of HeadworX published last year – we traded books. I have a lovely postcard he sent, telling me that my book cheered him on a bad day. I’ll treasure it.

He was the writer in residence at Vic in my first year there. He was a writer of much mana and stature. I hope he’s been reunited with Meg somewhere. They’ll both be missed.

Stuff I’ve been doing

Got sick, read at Voyagers launch even though I should have stayed home under a blanket. Was fun.

While sick, read a lot.

Sorting out final details of Helen Heath’s Watching for Smoke – will post about that soon (!)

Finished off JAAM 27 and sent it off to print. Very excited about this. It looks gorgeous! I’ll write more about this when it comes back from the printer and is ready to go out into the world.

16 August 2009

What I wanted in my life

Last week I was nosing through some of my old journals (actually in the hope of finding references to movies I’d been to see, as research for a poem I’m writing, but I don’t seem to write about my movie viewing in my journal, unfortunately) and I came across some pages from the end of 2002 which I had entitled ‘Hellie’s list of things’.

I remember writing some of this stuff – I was sitting on the balcony we had at the flat we lived in at that time. The balcony looked out across the green valley towards Kelburn viaduct. I’d often sit with my feet up on the railing in the sun – but only for a few months each year, when it actually got any sun – the rest of the year the balcony just stopped us getting much light into our lounge. But anyway, when I wrote this is it was October, and so would have recently got the sun back late in the afternoon.

‘Hellie’s list of things’ was basically about what I wanted my life to be like and what I wanted to achieve. The first subheading is ‘Projects to do’, and there is a list of seven writing projects – including film and television ideas, and a novel. The only one I’ve actually achieved in the seven years since is to have finished another poetry book. (Though I haven’t abandoned all of the others).

After that the ‘list’ gets a bit more esoteric, but there’s some things I wanted to learn more about, some things I wanted to do, and some things I wanted to be. I was surprised to find that one of the things was to ‘work at Encylopedia of NZ’, which, indeed, I now do.

Then comes a bunch of names of people, almost entirely writers, who I can only assume are people I admired or was inspired by. There are such people as Jane Campion, Katherine Mansfield, Ursula Bethell, Douglas Coupland, Sylvia Plath, ‘Merchant Ivory woman’ (I meant Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), Sylvia Plath, Artemisia Gentilleschi, Vivienne Plumb, Christine Jeffs, Margaret Atwood, Jeanette Winterson, Maurice Gee, Fleur Adcock, Vanessa Alexander and Janet Frame.

It segues, without even a line break(!), into some notes about wanting to work on some collaborations with Sean. (I’m no longer sure that’s a good idea. I’m not sure I work that well with others in a creative sense.)

Then there’s a list of things that, as I recall, are things I wanted in my future. Many of them I do now have – such as our own sunny house (yay!), enough money, close friends (which I had at the time of writing as well – I guess I wanted to keep them and add to them). Some are things I don’t have yet, such as working mostly from home, and a vege garden – though I’m not sure how much I actually want either of those things (I sometimes have a feeble sort of neglected vege garden).

It ends with ‘Publishing?/Design?', which are both things I have been able to do in various ways; and the final thing, which is something I have almost all the time: ‘Happiness’. How schmaltzy!

It’s interesting to take stock every now and then. To look at your life and what it is, to see how it measures up to what you thought you wanted, and how it measures up to what you actually want now.

I think I’m doing pretty well.

15 August 2009

Martin Edmond on biography - this weekend's quote

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you might remember my flurries of posts about biography, and might be aware how much I love them. I found this wonderful quote today in Martin Edmond’s Chronicle of the Unsung (which I can tell is going to become one of my favourite books, even though I’m only up to page 39):
I was actually more interested in the lives of artists than I was in their works. I would read biographies meticulously, as if by tracing the life I could, like van Ryssel or Schuffenecker copying van Gogh’s works, find out who I might be. The reading of biography requires that you imagine being the person it is about, which is impossible but no more impossible than the same imaginative act with respect to a character in fiction – yet wholly different for the very reason that in a biography you suppose yourself to be imagining the real. Is this always why you sometimes feel compelled to imagine not just being that person, but being, as they are, the subject of a biography yourself? Or is it a recognition of the fictional nature of any life told retrospectively and from the outside; and, following upon that recognition, a desire to imagine a similar retrospective fictionalisation of your own day-to-day existence? To read a life knowing how it ends is to read absolutely outside the consciousness of the person whose life it was, who, even if they knew the hour and manner of their death, still lived open-endedly. Radical misunderstanding of how people live may be consequent upon the passionate reading of biography. The most dangerous error is to attempt to live like the subject of a biography yourself.

14 August 2009

Science fiction poetry at the Poetry Society

How remiss of me! I should have written about this ages ago!

Some of us poets who had work included in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand are going to be reading at the next meeting of the NZ Poetry Society in Wellington THIS MONDAY (17th August). The meeting will be at the Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street, at 7.30.

For more info about this, and who is going to read, you can read all about it over on Tim Jones's blog: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2009/08/voyagers-sets-sail-with-great-crew.html

11 August 2009

I love living in Aro Valley...

I was grumpy today. Very grumpy. Not about deep things, or long lasting things. Merely because work was being irritating in a temporary way. Nevertheless, I was in a pretty vile mood.

But every now and then I thought of this sign I saw on my way to work, and it made me smile.

Someone has taped this poster up on the lamp post outside the video store, and other people have written on it. I'm thinking of adding to it tomorrow, assuming it's still there. This morning I smelt coffee, bacon and home.

(PS This is the first picture I managed to get off my phone - and even then I had to email it to myself! What a luddite.)

03 August 2009

Book awards and poetry and small presses and some rambling

So, the Montana New Zealand Book Awards are over for another year (and apparently the last time they’ll be sponsored by Montana wines, which is a good thing as far as I’m concerned because it can easily cause confusion, making people think we have something to do with a US state about which I know very little). Congrats to all the winners, and so forth...

I’m starting to think it’s healthy for there to be a bit of controversy each year, for publicity’s sake, and also as a catalyst to get everyone thinking about the value judgements inherent in book awards. Last year we had the ‘scandal’ about the judges only selected four novels for the Best Book of Fiction category, rather than the usual five. That led to much online discussion (and bitching) and some articles and even some thought about what the book awards is or should be. I also contributed my two cents to the debate.

The awards this year don’t seem to have had quite the controversy of last year, but I have noticed some discussion (and bitching) about the fact that all the finalists in both poetry categories (Best Book and Best First Book) were all from only two publishers: Auckland University Press and Victoria University Press. This is a fairly usual state of affairs.

While those two are, I think, the pre-eminent poetry publishers in New Zealand, they are far from the only poetry publishers. And while they publish fine books, they do not publish the only fine books (though, as a poet who is published by neither of those presses, and as a publisher of poetry myself, I would say that wouldn’t I). In fact some people might argue that those two publish a certain kind of poetry, and that their pre-eminence shuts down other voices.

I worry that we’ve ended up with a circular kind of thinking – it’s good because it’s published by VUP/AUP, and it can’t be good because it isn’t. I’ll be interested to see what happens in future years, whether anyone else gets a look in. As a publisher of books that I think are brilliant, I of course hope so.

If no small presses, or no other publishers, ever get shortlisted, then they’ll stop entering, viewing it as simply a way of throwing away a significant amount of money and five copies of the book. Perhaps that’s already happening – do small publishers usually enter the awards? Mine doesn’t always, and I don’t always.

Thinking further though, aren’t the book awards really just run by the institution, for the institution. Should we really expect anything else? This led me to another thought – perhaps small presses need to get together and have some kind of small press awards, which celebrates the work down by the many small publishers. Anyone want to organise it?

01 August 2009

Anaïs Nin on the woman of the future

I hope I am one:
The woman of the future, who is really being born today, will be a woman completely free of guilt for creating and for her self-development. She will be a woman in harmony with her own strength, not necessarily called masculine, or eccentric, or something unnatural. I imagine she will be very tranquil about her strength and her serenity, a woman who will know how to talk to children and to the men who sometimes fear her. Man has been uneasy about this self-evolution of women, but he need not be – because, instead of having a dependent, he will have a partner. He will have someone who will not make him feel that every day had has to go into battle against the world to support a wife and child, or a childlike wife. The woman of the future will never try to live vicariously through the man, and urge and push him to despair, to fulfill something that she should really be doing herself. So that is my first image – she is not aggressive, she is serene, she is sure, she is confident, she is able to develop her skills, she is able to ask for space for herself.

26 July 2009

Sport 2009

(That’s the magazine rather than the activity.)

A very exiting thing that happened this week is I got the latest issue of Sport magazine in the mail, with three of my poems in it! This is the first time I’ve had work published in Sport before, and I’m pretty excited about it. The poems are some of my movie poems: ‘When the lights go down’, ‘Chris’s life, a directed by Ken Russell’ (I must confess I stole some of this from things Chris said – including the best line: ‘That’s the anteater of self-doubt’), and ‘Helen’s life, as directed by Christine Jeffs’. The last two are part of a series I started in which various people I know have their lives directed by various film directors.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down with this issue and have a good read yet, but there’s lots to enjoy, including stories by Vivienne Plumb, Ingrid Horrocks and Johanna Aitchison, and poetry by Ian Wedde, Andrew Johnstone, Bill Manhire, Lynn Davidson and more.

The cover is very cool. It features a pair of giant rabbits among the tussock, wearing suits, reading a large book. Very Lynchian.

Bukowksi's Birthday Bash

This invitation from Miriam of Side Stream will be of most interest to Auckland folks:

!!!Bukowski's Birthday Bash!!!

Poets from the fringe mash it up with live, improvised jazz by the Dirty Words Live Sessions Band.

8 pm Friday August 14th 2009 @ Thirsty Dog (Corner of K' Rd & Howe St)

$10 on the door to fund the next issues of Side Stream, our free, bi-monthly poetry zine.

Let's keep our only independent and free underground poetry zine happening for another year. We've just released issue 20 this month. We've published about 90 poets (mainly from New Zealand) and a dozen artists across two and a half years, printing and hand-binding over 3,700 copies of the zine in that time, all of which have been given away for free to people from such places as Berlin and Portland to Melbourne and Kaitaia. All of this made possible by volunteers from all around the nation and the world. We want this truly community project to continue.

And our second fundraiser is going to be killer!

Bukowski would have dug Side Stream, seeing as he lived and breathed the underbelly, and what he spat out made it beautiful. The Dirty Words Live Sessions rocked my socks off in a very major way at the beginning of the year and then went into hibernation. But I tracked them down. I wouldn't let it go.

So for one night the Dirty Words Live Sessions are brought back to life with performances-with-a-twist from poets connected to Side Stream, including myself. The twist being that the three-piece band are improvising and have no idea what will be performed. The poet has to listen and go where the musicians lead, there is to be no direct communication between poet and band. It's totally spontaneous and totally exhilarating. There may be a chance for the audience to have a go, Mr Hollands will be there, so anything could happen. Whatever this is, this is not going to be a poetry reading.

So spread the word, tell everyone it's happening, Bukowski's Birthday Bash is coming, and it is going to be fantastic, let's make it go viral, and I'll see you there - August 15th, Thirsty Dog.

25 July 2009

Poetry day/#exquisitecorpsepoem

Yesterday was Montana Poetry Day in NZ. Most of my participation was online - writing a poetry-related blog post for my day-job blog and twittering about poetry. Actually - there was a lot of poetry, or linking to poems, going on on Twitter. All the best cultural institutions were doing it, ie Te Papa, NZ on Screen, NZ Live, NZHistory.net, Te Ara.

I also had a bit of a bash at my own promotion of poetry last week. Inspired by @senjmito saying that Twitter was the new poetry, and a bunch of my friends having recently completed an exquisite corpse blog story (each person wrote 150 words, on their own blog, and weren't supposed to have read all the previous parts - there were 10 parts in all), I thought I'd have a go at starting an #exquistecorpsepoem on Twitter. It started nicely over night, but hasn't really chugged along since. If you wanted to join in, have a look at it here: #exquistecorpsepoem the actual lines lines are marked #L and then a number. I thought this was shaping up nicely. Am a bit sorry it didn't take off, but it was a fun experiment.

19 July 2009

Anaïs Nin on writing

"Why one writes is a question I can never answer easily, having so often asked it of myself. I believe one writes because one has to create a world in which one can live. I could not live in any of the worlds offered to me – the world of my parents, the world of war, the world of politics. I had to create a world of my own, like a climate, a country, an atmosphere in which I could breathe, reign, and recreate myself when destroyed by living. That, I believe, is the reason for every work of art.
"We also write to heighten our own awareness of life. We write to lure and enchant and console others. We write to serenade our lovers. We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. We write, like Proust, to render all of it eternal, and to persuade ourselves that it is eternal. We write to be able to transcend our life, to reach beyond it. We write to teach ourselves to speak with others, to record the journey into the labyrinth. We write to expand our world when we feel strangled, or constricted, or lonely … When I don’t write, feel my world shrinking. I feel I am in prison. I feel I lose my fire and my color. It should be a necessity, as the sea needs to heave, and I call it breathing."
('The New Woman', 1974)

17 July 2009

Sneak peek at JAAM 27 cover

If you want to have a sneak preview of the gorgeous cover of JAAM 27, head on over to my latest post on the JAAM blog.

Anna Brown's design, featuring an artwork by Rachel Walker, has really raised the bar. It makes JAAM look like a totally professional publication (which I suppose we kind of are, but JAAM is also a publication put together with much love by a bunch of keen people who are still learning as we go along).

This is an exciting challenge. Clare (my co-managing editor) and I are keen to keep JAAM on the up and up. We're going to edit the next issue (JAAM 28, 2010), and will be putting out our call for submissions in August. It's going to be a themed issue, so look out for it. And we already have an enthusiastic designer lined up!

12 July 2009

Anaïs Nin on good relationships

I've been reading some non-fiction writing by Anaïs Nin of late. She's someone I have a lot of admiration for, but take with a grain of salt. But I'm finding a lot of gems in her work. A lot to think about, a lot to hope for, a lot to be grateful for.

This is her in the year of my birth on relationships between the 'new women' and the 'new men':
...they prized their relationship, they gave care to it, time attention ... Both wanted to work at something they loved ... Neither one dominated. Each one worked at what they did best, shared labors, unobtrusively, without need to establish roles or boundaries. The characteristic trait was gentleness. There was no head of the house. There was no need to assert which one was the supplier of income. They had learned the subtle art of oscillation, which is human. Neither strength or weakness is a fixed quality. We all have our days of strength and our days of weakness. They had learned rhythm, suppleness, relativity. Each had knowledge and special intuitions to contribute. There is no war of the sexes between these couples. There is no need to draw up contracts on the rules of marriage ... They are both aware of the function of dreams–not as symptoms of neurosis, but as guidance to our secret nature. They know that each is endowed with both masculine and feminine qualities.
('In Favour of the Sensitive Man', 1974)

09 July 2009

Montana Poetry Day 2009

This year Montana Poetry Day* is coming up in a few weeks on the 24th of July. Lots of poetry events will be occurring around NZ, books will be launched and the winners of the poetry sections of the books awards will be announced.

As I mentioned in a previous post, as part of a new initiative, my Seraph Press website and the JAAM website are both featuring Poetry Day poems from recent publications on their front pages. Seraph Press features 'Biograph' by Scott Kendrick, from Cold Comfort, Cold Concrete: Poems & Satires – the last book I published. JAAM features 'come here at once' by Emma Barnes, which was published in JAAM 26. Check them out - they're both great, and quite different from each other.

If you're looking for other ways to celebrate Montana Poetry Day, visit the official site or NZLive.com.

*(For overseas readers, Montana is the name of a wine brand, which sponsors the day, and has nothing to do with Montana the state.)

04 July 2009

Website busyness

Today I've finally updated my Seraph Press website. The last time I'd updated it was January 08 - partly this was because I haven't published anything for a couple of years, but also because the last time I'd tried to update it I'd kind of broken it. I'd installed a new version of Dreamweaver (on which the site is built with very minimal knowledge of how one ought to built websites, and entirely by hand - one day I'll learn how to use a template and css, but today is not that day) and it screwed everything up. But today I figured out what I needed to do to fix it, and I also made it fixed-width and centred, so I think it looks a bit less ugly than it did.

Today I also wrote a new blog post for the JAAM site, about how JAAM 26 didn't win the Best Collected Work category that it was listed for in the 2009 Sir Julius Vogel Awards. (I expect Tim Jones and Mark Pirie's science fiction poetry anthology Voyagers to take it next year.)

The motivation behind such busyness is that I had agreed, as part of Montana Poetry Day (which is 24 July this year) to include a poem on the front page of both Seraph Press and JAAM's sites, with the Montana Poetry Day logo linking back to their site.

I haven't quite got that far yet, but thought that if I was going to be adding things to the sites, I might as well fix and update them first.

02 July 2009

Places to submit stuff: Brief 38

Brief is one of those literary mags I look at in the library and always think I should subscribe to. I think the time has come for me to do so, and also time, perhaps, to submit.

This call for submissions was in the Society of Authors newsletter:

You are invited to submit poetry, fiction, critical and creative non-fiction, reviews, art and/or less classifiable work for the pages of the next issue of Brief. Brief is a New Zealand print-based journal, and is newly under the general editorship of Michael Arnold. Brief 38 will be guest edited by Jen Crawford.

A Brief Description of the Whole World was founded in the mid-90s by Alan Loney, who aimed to make a space in New Zealand for writing informed in one way or another by post-structuralism & L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E innovations. Over the years, though, the magazine's been through a few editors (John Geraets, Jack Ross, Scott Hamilton, Brett Cross) and that purpose has diversified.

The magazine remains a home for work that takes aesthetic and conceptual risks. We are particularly interested in writing that is linguistically and visually curious, that inhabits international and multimedia forms and identities, and that is emotionally and philosophically inventive. We aim to open up the contributor list and the readership, and to welcome in new people and thoughts.

Subscriptions can be ordered from the Titus Books website: http://titus.books.online.fr/html/OrderForm.htm

Please send anything you'd like considered for the forthcoming issue to jencrawfordATgmail.com. Submissions will close on 15 July, 2009.

Speaking of the Society of Authors - I finally got around to updating my wee page on it. It includes a pic in which I appear to have no neck, but which I like otherwise. Note the corner of Sean's fab Plan 9 from Outer Space poster.

27 June 2009

Project announcement: ‘Watching for Smoke’ by Helen Heath

Busy busy busy. Along with the projects I’ve already written about – JAAM (which I’ve been typesetting), video poems, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves, my own poetry – I’ve also been working putting together a new Seraph Press publication. It's going to be a limited-edition hand-bound poetry chapbook by Helen Heath, called Watching for Smoke.

Helen is a poet and all-round crafty person from Paekakariki. Over the last few years I've been getting to know her and her poetry a bit better, not least through her blog Show your Workings, and I've done a few readings with her and other people. I've been finding her work more and more compelling, and earlier this year I had a chat with her about it being time for her to get a chapbook of her work out into the world. She's taken up the challenge.

I was given a lot of latitude with this. I had an idea of what I wanted this book to be, and she's let me build it with her poems. I knew I wanted the anchor to be her poem 'Spilt', which was in the latest issue of JAAM (26). I love this poem. It does so much. It's so physical, almost uncomfortably so (well, probably it is actually uncomfortable for some). And it's so personal, and yet really universal, like many of my favourite poems are. And it's both domestic and mythic. 'Spilt' has become both the anchor and the jumping-off point for the collection.

To me, the chapbook is tied together by all the different roles we have, especially in our families, such as mother, wife, lover, daughter, sister, and the tensions within and between them. It represents only an aspect of the work Helen is doing, but it's one of the aspects I really enjoy. I'm liking how the poems circle back and around in time, with connections to each other. You'll know what I'm talking about when you read it.

My schedule is to have this all done by the time Helen reads at Stand Up Poetry in Palmerston North - so a couple of months. It's already typeset, and we've both got some ideas for the cover design. It's going to be hand-bound, and may have knitting needles incorporated into some how! I'm going to try to make some demo versions in the next few days, see if what I'm imagining in my head is actually feasible. Such fun!

17 June 2009

Winged Ink - catalogued and archived

Ok, so this might get a bit meta - especially if you're reading the archived version - but I was excited to discover last week that the National Library has catalogued my blog, and also that they're archiving it as part of the National Digital Heritage Archive.

Actually, they're trying to archive all of the NZ internet domain, and other NZ-based websites, but because Winged Ink is hosted on Blogger, I didn't expect them to find it. That they did is either down to impressive detective work, or otherwise perhaps because I might know someone involved - I did used to work at the National Library after all, in my former life as a fake librarian.

Anyway, the thought that people of the future might read my blog to find out stuff about poetry or publishing or whatever (actually, for those of you who understand MARC: 650 _0 |a New Zealand poetry |y 21st century |v Blogs.) , made me feel slightly anxious, and made me feel that I ought be writing things worth archiving. Probably my blog update binge over the weekend was due to this pressure. Anyway, it's an excuse...

15 June 2009

Blackmail Press 24 published

Blackmail Press 24 online literary mag is now online, and worth checking out. I'm delighted that a couple of my poems are included.

When guest editor Miriam Barr (also editor of Side Stream poetry zine) called for submissions for Blackmail Press 24, she asked for poems that explored the idea(s) of secrets:
Keeping and sharing secrets seem to be universal parts of the human condition – something we learn very early on as children and carry throughout our lives. The idea that some things should remain private and unsaid is intriguing, throwing up many lines of contemplation.
The theme had wide scope. Everyone has had secrets, held information, shared information, kept information. As Miriam says (very poetically) in her editorial:
Some of the secrets I have kept have defined me, or the periods they were kept in. They have bonded and they have broken. They have held me apart and they have held me together. They have been used and also used against me. They have kept me safe and they have caught up with me.
My poems are not about my own secrets - perhaps I'm not brave enough for that. 'The Wall' and 'Lady Chatterley loves' are about other people's secrets - fictional characters in these cases - and about state secret-gathering in one case, and keeping ones self a secret in the other.

I haven't yet had a chance to explore the contents thoroughly yet, but I'm looking forward to it. There are lots of names I know among the contributors, including Raewyn Alexander,Iain Britton, Janet Charman, Jennifer Compton, Robin Fry, Jessica Le Bas, Helen Lowe, Michael Morrissey, Mark Pirie, Jenny Powell, Elizabeth Smither, Laura Solomon, Michael Steven and Sue Wootton, and I'm expecting to make some new discoveries too.

14 June 2009

Side Stream deadline tomorrow

And the last of my many short posts of the weekend - Side Stream poetry zine has a deadline for its next issue tomorrow (15 June 2009). For more info, check out the submission guidelines on their MySpace page.

NZ Poetry Society AGM and free poetry workshop

Monday 15 June, 7.30 pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street, Wellington

There will be no guest poet this month. The Annual General Meeting will take place, followed by a mini-workshop for those attending the AGM. This will be run by the National Coordinator, Laurice Gilbert, and there will be no charge (but you have to attend the AGM to qualify).

broadsheet 3 out now

The latest issue of broadsheet is out now. broadsheet is edited by Mark Pirie, and comes out twice a year. (It's invitation only, at this stage.)

This issue is kind of dedicated to US poet Robert Creeley. It includes a poem by Mark dedicated to Robert Creeley, and an interview/conversation between Creeley and poet and Poetry NZ editor Alistair Paterson from 1982. Creeley visited NZ in 1976, at the invitation of Paterson, and seemed to have had a significant influence on NZ poetry of the time. (Creeley also picked up his 3rd wife at a reading in Dunedin, so it was a fruitful trip for him too.) It's really interesting 'overhearing' Creeley and Paterson talk about poetry at the time, especially New Zealand poetry.

Another highlight of this issue for me was Harvey Molloy's poem 'Ghosts of St James', which I very much admired when I heard him read it last year. It's right up my alley - though almost too creepy for me! It tells the stories of two of the St James theatre's resident ghosts, Yuri and the woman in red.

I also particularly enjoyed two poems by Paul Wolffram, who was one of the other original JAAMers from back in 1995 when Mark kicked the whole thing off. I haven't seen that much of Paul lately - he spent a while hanging about in Papua New Guinea as an ethnomusciologist, and these two poems are about that time.

And there are two poems from Jenny Powell's upcoming book Viet Nam: A Poem Journey which I'm looking forward to the publication of sometime this year. I've been lucky enough to have a sneak preview.

You can also enjoy poems by Tim Jones, Barbara Strang, John O'Connor, James Norcliffe, Peter Olds, Rachel McAlpine, Riemke Ensing, Will Leadbeater, Laura Solomon, Richard Langston and Wanjiku Kiarie.

broadsheet 2 was a memorial issue for poet Louis Johnson, marking 20 years since his death. I had a couple of poems in that issue, along with Peter Bland, Marilyn Duckworth, Kevin Ireland, Louis Johnson, Miranda Johnson, Harvey McQueen, Vincent O'Sullivan, Alistair Paterson, Harry Ricketts, Martyn Sanderson, Nelson Wattie and F W N Wright. I wrote about broadsheet 1 back in June of last year.

You can find out more about it, including subscription info and even pdfs of each issue, on its page on the HeadworX site.

13 June 2009

Cultured types needed to help with geographic references

My friend Quincey has sent out a 'help me' call to the cultured folks of the interweb.

For some reason known only to herself, and anyone else she's told, she need recommendations of films, books, songs, poems, works of art of almost any form set in one of the following locations:

- Venice
- Athens
- The Greek Islands
- Vienna
- Salzburg
- Geneva
- El Camino de Compostela
- Barcelona.

Now's your chance to show off your wide knowledge of art and literature. Go visit her and leave your recommendations: http://ktrmc.blogspot.com/2009/06/vignette-6-help-me-you-hip-savvy-clued.html.

Review of My Iron Spine in NZ Books

Been pretty busy lately - it's been birthday season at our house, among other things, and we spent the first bit of last week over in Martinborough (we stayed here, at the Grape and Olive - I recommend it). I haven't been posting much lately, and have quite a back log of things to blog about, so will probably do a burst of short posts.

This post is actually supposed to be about the review of My Iron Spine in NZ Books. I learned about the review on Thursday, when I found a photocopy of it in my pigeon hole at work, for which I have our lovely librarian to thank – thanks Fran!

To be honest, I wasn't expecting a review from NZ Books, they don't review a lot of poetry – at least not from the smaller presses – so I'm delighted to have been reviewed at all – even though I'm not that excited about the review itself.

Emma Neale reviews My Iron Spine along with Museum of Lost Days by Raewyn Alexander, Beauty of the Badlands by Cliff Fell, and Get Some by Sonja Yelich. To be honest, I'm not sure she likes any of our books that much. She decides at the beginning to talk about us all as lyric poets, which I don't think she means to be a kind of patronising insult: 'lyric poetry persists as an attractive poetic form, despite the intellectually energising innovations of the avant-garde'. I guess one tends not to categorise oneself that much, but I've never thought of myself as a lyric poet. Perhaps I am. Who knows. I always thought of lyric poems as short poems about oneself, and it's true that I do write those sometimes. But most of this book in particular is long poems about other people.

Nevertheless, she does like some of my poems, particularly 'Eleven Fragments of God', which she says has a cleansing honesty; and 'Sylvia Fights off the Boys':

The emphatic repetition of the phrase "and the truth of it is" obliquely comments on the slipperiness of identity and an artist's masks, and meaning is approached in a more subtle, sidewinding manner...

Have to admit, I was a bit miffed that she said 'there isn't much obvious sensuous orality' in my language - not that I'm entirely sure what she means. It might not do it for her, but there are some phrases in these poems that I delight in reading out loud. Some of my favs are:
  • Winter moves from grey / to black and back to grey / She sleeps all day, gets up for dinner / watches telly, weeps and sleeps again
  • 'Lace me up tight Marie / tightly tighter’ / My sturdy backbone/my iron spine
  • she wrapped me, laced me /in numbers, equations /like a whale-bone corset / to keep my back / straight, my spine aligned /and threaded through my mind / little lines of logic / a program for equilibrium
  • then a turn — a return / to her desk in her room / her almost whole world / Her room, an embrace / an encasement /her blanket, her box /her shelter at the top of the stairs /Rafters and panels / a corset, a comfort.
(Hmm, I see now that there is a very obvious similarity in theme to those bits I like..., but they sound beautiful out loud, promise.)

Anyway, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, I'm pretty happy when people pay attention to my work at all, and I've very much appreciated all the good feedback from people about this book who get what I'm trying to do, and respond to that.

What makes good book launches and poetry readings

Tim Jones has a really good post about book launches and poetry readings over on his blog. There's also quite a bit of discussion going on in the comments. I've written a blog-post-length comment about my thoughts on book launches and poetry readings, which I'll include below as well, but it's worth checking out the post and joining the discussion if you're interested in this sort of thing.

My comment:

Great post Tim! Over the last few years, as I’ve done more launches (both my own and for Seraph Press books) and more readings, I’ve been thinking about both these things quite a bit.

I agree about launches – it’s more important to have your friends, family, work colleagues, people who care about you there than the local literati. It’s nice to have them there too of course, but the best launches I’ve been to/had have been ones that are warm, supportive and enthusiastic.

Pick a venue that will be friendly, and also if it has things for people to look at if they aren’t mingling, all the better! I’ve tended to go for galleries rather than bookshops for my launches – partly out of cost – a Unity launch doesn’t come cheap, because they have to actually pay their staff, while my books-table man (Sean) comes for free. Also, I do the catering – usually with the help of my mum, and other people. I quite enjoy the home-madeness of that.

I like to give the launch goers a discount on the recommended retail price, so they feel like it’s worth buying the book on the night. Sometimes at book launches there are other incentives – at one of Harvey McQueen’s launches everyone who bought the book got a kowhai seedling (which has now grown into quite a shrub).

In terms of readings, I could write a whole post about that, which this comment is fast turning into!

Basically, I think you should try to make it easy for people to listen to you. I usually start with something that I think will grab people – usually something with a bit of humour, and not too long. Then I’ll move on to more serious darker or longer poems. Quite often I’ll bring it back up again at the end. Readings, like books, have a kind of a rhythm.

I’m also not of the monotone reading school – that can work for some people, but I mostly find it boring and hard to listen to. I try to vary my tone and speed and loudness (as appropriate:)).

And I agree with Harvey’s comments about talking to audience. I saw musician Amanda Palmer perform earlier this year, and she was amazing. What was so good about her though wasn’t just that I enjoyed her music, it was that she connected with the audience. She wasn’t just performing to a bunch of people she’d rather ignore, as many people do, she was trying to engage with this bunch of people. As a shy person, that can be quite hard, but I think it’s rewarding for everyone.


06 June 2009

Voyagers on the radio

Tomorrow (Sunday 7 June) Mark Pirie and Tim Jones, the editors of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (an anthology I’m delighted to be in) are going to be interviewed on National Radio by Lynn Freeman.

They’re scheduled to be on between 2.30 and 3. If you don't catch them them, you can listen to them later at you leisure on the really rather fabulous Radio NZ site.

02 June 2009

JAAM 27 update

I've just posted an update about where we're at with JAAM 27 on the JAAM website: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/jaam-27-update/

Ingrid's going great guns, and the selection/replying part of the process is nearly over.

01 June 2009

Next Seraph Press book – Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, by Vana Manasiadis

Today is one of the few days I appreciate the monarchy. Thanks for the holiday, it’s been lovely.

I haven’t left the house today, not even to poke my nose out into the courtyard. But it’s been a lovely, productive day, answering emails, reading things I need to read, doing some JAAM admin things, and typesetting. I love typesetting. It’s the point where the manuscript becomes a book, almost.

The book I’m typesetting is Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima by Vana Manasiadis – the next proper book Seraph Press (that's me, basically) is going to publish (though I’m likely to be doing at least one chapbook before then – more on that soon). It will be published by the end of this year.

I’ve loved Ithaca, Vana’s debut collection of poetry, since I first read it in its early form several years ago, and it’s been exciting seeing it develop. Working on it again today I got really excited. I love this book! I love every book I’ve published – I have to really love them before, which is one of the reasons I publish so little. (The other reason is because it’s quite time consuming, and I have a lot of other competing things to consume my time.) But I’m enjoying how beautiful this book is, how special it is. Even the little negotiations – whether to have a glossary (no), a contents page (not where you’d expect it) – have been fun.

Like poetry collections I especially enjoy, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves is a collection that works as a whole. It weaves, it resonates, it has threads that run throughout it, threads that don’t. I’ve always seen it as being about being here and not here – being in New Zealand and Greece at the same time, being in the past and the present at the same time: ‘my cartography of there and not there’ , being between things: ‘the ocean is what I’m standing in – one tiptoe on the Pacific rim / and one not.’ It’s about Vana’s grandmother, and then about her mother, it’s people with people from Greek mythology hanging out in Wellington. It’s funny, and sometimes it’s so moving that it makes me cry.

And now I’ve applied for an ISBN, I’ve mocked up a cover (still need to request permission to use a very cool lithograph as the cover image, but I’ll show you it when it’s sorted – it’s going to be gorgeous!), and we’re well on our way to publication.