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.