31 May 2009

New video poem by Meliors Simms

I had another new addition to my New Zealand Poets on Video YouTube group – http://www.youtube.com/group/NZPoetsonvideo – last week: 'Daintree Calling' by Meliors Simms. I've duly added it to my still-rather-undeveloped directory of New Zealand Poets on Video (http://nzpoetsonvideo.wordpress.com/), and am challenged to get myself going on a new video too.

I have one pretty much ready - though this one was a bit easier than my last effort, as this is just a video of an impromptu performance of a poem by Scott Kendrick at his birthday party – where normally people would yell 'speech!', they yelled 'poem!', and after only a few moments of hesitation, he performed 'Battle Rattle Sally', from Cold Comfort, Cold Concrete. All I really had to do was add titles. So expect this to be up on YouTube soon.

30 May 2009

The city in New Zealand literature – civilisation or cesspit?

I’ve been a bit silent lately, due to various kinds of busy-ness, but I have several things to blog about, which I hope to do during this long weekend. But in the meantime, perhaps you literary folks can help me out – well not be exactly, but one of my work colleagues.

Ben is writing an entry on images of city life in art and so forth, and would like some help with how the city is represented in New Zealand literature. He also doesn’t have time to read lots of novels, so we’re hoping literate types can all put their brains together and see if we can come up with something.

Check out my blog post on my work blog – http://blog.teara.govt.nz/2009/05/28/the-city-in-new-zealand-literature-can-you-help/ – and please do leave a comment if you have any ideas.

Thanks in advance!

15 May 2009

Poetry readings in Welly: Chris Price and Glenn Colquhoun

I've taken the day off work to catch up with myself. I'd envisaged sitting here in the sun tapping away at the computer, but instead the weather is windy and rainy and vile. I suspect I may not leave the house ALL DAY. Oh goodness, now there's thunder and lightning, and it's raining so hard that I can't see the city. I can barely see across the valley. And the gutter seems to be overflowing. Sigh.

Anyway, that's not what this post is about. It's about two poetry events to attend next week, if you're in Wellington.

Poetry Society: Chris Price

Monday 18 May, 7.30pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St
Guest Poet: Chris Price, poet, editor, and educator at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Chris's latest poetry collection, the blind singer, will be available for purchase. The meeting will begin with an open mic. Entry $2.

Writers Read Series: Glenn Colquhoun

Thursday 21 May, 6-7 pm, followed by Q & A and refreshments.
5D16 (Wellington Campus, Massey University, Wallace Street, Entrance A, Block 5, Level D, Room 16).

Poetry reading by Glenn Colquhoun, doctor, children's writer, and best-selling poet. This is a free community event open to students, staff and the general public. We welcome your friends and colleagues. RSVP: d.puna@massey.ac.nz

Oh yay, the city has reappeared. It looks rather grey and washed-out though. My courtyard has also ceased flooding. Hurrah.

12 May 2009

First new poetry video on my YouTube group - NZ Poets on Video

Yay! Someone else has added the first (other than my effort) video to my YouTube NZ Poets on Video group - thanks Meliors.

You can view her video, 'Non Linear Time', on YouTube, or on her blog. You can tell from the visuals that she's a book artist.

Now I just need to update my New Zealand Poets on Video directory! I have several more things I need to add. Who needs a job eh? I could totally fill my days without one. Oh yes, that's why I need a job . . .

10 May 2009

Poetry adventures in Palmerston North

The major reason my week was a bit crazy was because, as I said last week, I was guest poet Stand Up Poetry in Palmerston North. Very exciting.

We made it into a bit of a road trip – I went to work for a couple of hours in the morning and then headed up the coast. I’d planned what I was going to read beforehand, but changed my mind about a few things on my way up, when I ran them through with Sean between Levin and Palmerston North. One of the ones I decided to sub in was ‘Vital melancholy’, which turned out to be the right thing as when Helen Lendorf was introducing me, she read out the end of that poem. So people got to hear the whole thing.

Anyway, after perusing the excellent stock at the nearby Bruce McKenzie bookshop, we popped in to the library – where Stand Up Poetry is held, and met Helen, who I’d previously only met online, and several very lovely librarians. We also managed to get the datashow working, which meant I was able to use PowerPoint slides to accompany a couple of poems at the end.

We wandered off for sushi and when we came back there were dozens of people already there and listening to a live two-man band (a New Zealand music month event). And all the open-reading spots had long gone – they restrict these so the event doesn’t go on all night. They’d stretched it to 13, from their usual 10, and they were all filled up quarter of an hour before the event started.

The open reading was lovely – there were so many different kinds of poets and people, and at different stages of their writing careers. There were young students, young actors, older comic poets, older farmer poets, serious, funny, rhyming, free verse. It seemed much more ‘grass-roots’ than the Wellington poetry scene. And it was all held together by Helen’s encouragement and organisation. A really good atmosphere. Two particular highlights were a poet called Felicity – who spoke quite quietly, but whose poetry was gorgeous – and Glenn Colquhoun. It was really cool that Glenn, who has a three-month residency in Palmerston North, joined in the open-mike. He’s an amazing performer – go and see him if you get the chance.

After a short break, where coffee and cookies were available, Helen introduced me and it was my turn. I stuck mainly to poems from My Iron Spine, which for some reason seemed the right thing to do. I was really pleased that the audience got the humour in my poems – they laughed in (most of) the right places, and afterwards one young woman who was there said she like how my poems swung from funny to sad like a pendulum.

I did my last two poems – ‘Elizabeth Siddal’ and ‘Artemisia Gentileschi’ – accompanied by PowerPoint slides of appropriate images. With Elizabeth Siddal I was able to show some of the Pre-Raphaelite paintings and drawings that had inspired me when I wrote the poem. ‘Artemisia Gentileschi’ is even more closely tied to images – the poem is basically (my version of) the artist talking about some of her paintings, while really talking about her life and experiences. It’s much easier to see the images they’re right there in front of you, rather than trying to imagine them, and people seemed to really enjoy it.

Have any of you ever used visuals when performing your poems? Because it went down so well, I think I’ll try it again. I’ve been asked to read at the October meeting of the Poetry Society (yay!), so if I can get some equipment together I’ll try to use some visual, or maybe even audio-visual aids.

I know of several other Wellington (or nearby) poets who are heading up to Palmy for Stand Up Poetry – you’ll enjoy it and they’ll make you very welcome.

My Iron Spine reviewed, me interviewed in Poetry Society mag

It's been a bit of a crazy week - more on that in my next post - and I've been wanting to write this post since last weekend, but hadn't found the time.

At the end of last week my pdf of the New Zealand Poetry Society magazine, A Fine Line, arrived in my inbox, with not only a review of My Iron Spine, but also an interview with me.

First of all, the review. It was by Anne Harré, who also did the interview. She seems to like it - says it's 'an intriguing combination of poems'. She's a bigger fan of the first, autobiographical, section than the rest, which many people seem to (whereas most of my favs are in the second section). She says it 'lilts along' and that 'the images are, at times, sublimely beautiful, yet manage to convey a deceptive naivety. '
Ultimately the poems in this first section work because they are personal. It is the personal voice of the poet that cuts through deceptively simple narrative and grabs the reader’s attention through to the end.
She says of the second and third sections: 'While entertaining, they don’t hold the same sway as the first section', but likes 'Emily Dickinson'.

All in all, it's pretty positive: 'Overall, though, this is an accomplished collection. Rickerby has a strong poetic voice that draws the reader in and is well worth a read and a re-read.'

The interview, which was conducted via email, is the first in a series Anne is going to do with poets in the magazine. She sent me the questions, and I found I had to think a lot about (most of) them to come up with my answers - especially 'What is the point of poetry in the 21st century?' (What do you think? Let me know.) A really interesting exercise.

Anyway, Anne has very kindly said I can re-publish the interview here, so here it is.

Much of your work reads as deeply personal, deeply felt. How important to you is the personal, and how do you deal with the vulnerability that poetry provides?

I find it kind of curious that people respond to my work in that way. Some of the poems in My Iron Spine are deeply personal, but most of them are biographical – about other people. Sometimes poems that are autobiographical are not that personal, and sometimes poems that seem autobiographical aren’t. The more personal ones, I usually try to layer with other things, so they maybe don’t seem so personal. And the poems I write that are really personal haven’t seen the light of day.

This personal–impersonal thing in poetry is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I’m pulled in both directions. Part of me wants to write impersonal, opaque, imagistic poetry, and the other part of me wants to write about my personal feelings and experience and say things that we’re normally too afraid to say. Sometimes poems become really universal by being very personal and specific – I’m not expecting people to be interested in me so much as find something that means something to them in my work.

Which writers inspire you, and why?

I’m inspired by heaps of different kinds of writers in different ways. In terms of poets, some I’ve recently been inspired by are Eliot for his gorgeous opacity and Sharon Olds for her honesty. Anne Carson and Anne Sexton have been inspirational in recent years. I’m also inspired by the poets and writers I know, as I see them change and grow and reach. I’m inspired by non-fiction a lot too, and lately I’ve been inspired by Alain de Botton’s combination of philosophy and the personal. Lots of novelists have inspired me – Jeanette Winterson and Margaret Atwood probably being the two major ones.

Do you ‘wait for the muse’ or are you one of those disciplined writers that try to write something every day?

I guess I’m somewhere in between. I’d love to write every day, and I did during a halcyon period when I wasn’t working. But in these days of full-time employment, that isn’t working for me. I do need to make some time and space though, or the muse doesn’t visit very often. I’ve found that going somewhere like a café, where I won’t get distracted by home things, and just thinking and reading and writing rubbish in my journal often creates a space where poetry can come.

Robert Frost wrote that “to be a poet is a condition, not a profession”, so for you is it one or the other (or a bit of both)?

It’s definitely not a profession for me – sounds too much like I expect money from it. It’s more like a condition or a vocation. For me it’s something I do, or something I am, depending on how I’m feeling about it and how much I’ve written lately.

What’s the point of poetry in the 21st century?

This is a difficult one to articulate. I’ve spent a bit of time thinking about the value of art, and I really do believe it is important, even in these days when we tend to value the utilitarian and the economic. And, while I think that art does have utilitarian and economic value, I think it’s really important to have art as both creators and audience; to make us think about things differently, to give our lives meaning, beauty and something bigger than ourselves.

For many people, poetry in particular maybe isn’t that relevant; but for me it is. The value and difference of poetry is its intensity of language. Probably more than any other art form, it works with metaphor and subtext – you say something, but you’re also saying something else. It might mean it enables you to say or explore something you might not have otherwise been able to. Or, that you’re saying multiple things at one time – for example, my poem ‘Winters of discontent’ is partly about the classical myth of Persephone and Demeter, partly about my own experiences of depression, partly the archetype of dying in winter and regenerating in spring, partly about the reader’s experiences of sadness or loss, and so on…

What is the appeal of live readings (either as an audience member, or performer)?

Hearing a poem read is very different to reading it on the page. I enjoy both and, although a few poets are quite bad at reading their work and it’s better to read it on the page, hearing the poem read can bring words to life in a different way. It’s interesting hearing the rhythm and pace the poet envisaged for the poem.

In recent years I’ve come to really enjoy reading my work, probably as I’ve gotten better at it – though, being a shy person, I can still get a bit nervous. I enjoy it when you get a good response from the audience – turns out I quite like instant gratification, like everyone else. It’s also helpful when it shows you that something isn’t really working, or that something works better on the page.

Do you prefer crunchy peanut butter or smooth?

Definitely crunchy, and only with honey.

What are you working on at present?

The poetry project I’m working on is what I hope will become my next book, Cinema. They’re poems that are loosely inspired by film – some specific films, some film technique, some film-related experience. And I’m still writing some more random poetry.

Inspired by the film stuff, I’m also starting to video poets reading their poetry, with the aim of sticking them on the internet and making them available to people. I’ve got several publishing projects on the way, including a new Seraph Press book (Ithaca Island Bay Leaves by Vana Manasiadis), and JAAM. And I’m blogging – http://www.wingedink.blogspot.com/ – and I’ve recently joined Twitter. As well as twittering inane things about what I’m up to, I also ‘tweet’ short extracts from poems I like.

05 May 2009

Carol Ann Duffy is new UK poet laureate

I expect you've already heard if you're a poetry sort of person, but Carol Ann Duffy has been appointed as the new poet laureate in the UK. This is especially historic because she's the first woman, and this is part of the reason she accepted the post, because it was about time.

Carol Ann Duffy is a poet lots of people I respect really like, and whom I've never quite spent the time with but always meant to. I'm sure this will be a spur for me, and many other people, to check out her books.

There's heaps more out there on the net about this, but this Guardian interview is quite thorough: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/may/03/carol-ann-duffy-poet-laureate

02 May 2009

Cool things, part 2: Guest poeting in Palmerston North

I'm lucky enough to be the guest poet at Stand Up Poetry in Palmerston North next week. If you're up that way, you can catch me at:

Palmerston North City Library
Sound and Vision Centre (ground floor)
Wednesday 6 May 2009
7.00 pm

Stand Up Poetry begins with an open mike reading - people are invited to bring 5 minutes of their best work. Then I get to read for 20-30 minutes. If we can figure out the technology, I'm also planning to do a couple of poems accompanied by images on a screen - I have some that are very inspired by artwork, and I've always thought it would be cool to try to present them together.

I haven't been to Palmerston North in a little while. I used to go there all the time because my grandparents lived there - my father had grown up there. Don't have many relatives left there now though.

Ok, now just have to figure out exactly what I'm going to read.