30 April 2010

Vana Manasiadis interviewed by Tim Jones

About once a month Tim Jones interviews writers on his blog, Books in the Trees. This month it was the turn of Vana Manasiadis, author of Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, published by me. You can read the interview here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2010/04/interview-with-vana-manasiadis.html.

I love this interview, partly just because it sounds like Vana talking, and she's back in Crete now and I miss her; but mostly because it's so alive and honest. I recommend it.

Also, if you missed her interviewed on National Radio by Lynn Freeman, you can listen to that here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/national/art/2010/01/31/poetry_-_vana_manasiadis.

26 April 2010

Tuesday poem: Because I could not stop for Death

by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death -
He kindly stopped for me -
The carriage held but just Ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove - He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his Civility -

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess - in the Ring -
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain -
We passed the Setting Sun -

Or rather - He passed Us -
The Dews grew quivering and Chill -
For only Gossamer my Gown -
My Tippet - only Tulle -

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the ground -
The Roof was scarcely visible -
The Cornice – in the Ground -

Since then - 'tis Centuries - and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity -

I wish I were more familiar with the poems of Emily Dickinson, because what I’ve read I’ve really liked, but alas my large copy of The Poems of Emily Dickinson, with her original punctuation, quirky capitalisation and generously used dashes intact, remains mostly unread. I always find big volumes so unwelcoming. I much prefer small volumes of carefully selected poems, which fit nicely together, but given Emily Dickinson didn’t publish any books in her lifetime, I won’t be getting that from her.

I came across the above poem in my literary criticism textbook, of all places. I forget what literary-theory concept it was illustrating, but I loved its attitude and its rhythm. I’ve never been very good at remembering poems (least of all my own) by heart, but I hope to never forget the first two lines of this poem.

Next time I use an out-of-copyright poem for my Tuesday poem, I promise to not use another about death.

The Tuesday Poem movement is increasing. You can find the ‘official’ Tuesday Poem, and other Tuesday Poems on the blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

25 April 2010

NaPoWriMo – almost there!

I'll actually be kinda sad when this month is over, because while there will be nothing stopping me from continuing to write a poem (almost) every day, I really can't see it happening. It's almost over, and I'm quite pleased and rather surprised that I've actually managed to write almost every day - I think I've missed four days (including yesterday), but I've more than made up for them on other days. I didn't expect to be this diligent.

When I wrote my last update, I was finding it a bit wearying - I was feeling like I was just writing a bunch of unnecessary words, with no real point and no real purpose. I had an inkling that I might get something out of this experiment though, I just didn't know what it might be yet.

I feel like I won't really know until it's all over and I've had a chance to read over what I've written, and have a bit of a think about the whole experience, but late last week something started dawning on me.

Last week was a fairly full-on week for me - a lot of stuff was going on, mostly with people I care about. I had a couple of shocks, and things that really sent me into some soul searching and some feeling and some worry. I have a pretty busy life, what with my full-time day job, my people, and other (often literature-related) commitments, so I don't have an enormous amount of time for writing (this seems to be a common problem), so I've mostly been writing my NaPoWriMo poems in my lunchtimes, which I also have to use for eating lunch and running errands and processing what's going on in my head.

On Friday, while writing a poem, I realised that my poems from last week were about things that really mattered to me, and people who really mattered to me. I was writing directly from my heart, kind of as a way of processing and exploring the things that have been going on - killing two birds with one stone.

I've been coming to terms with the fact that I'm a heart reader - of course I require art and skill and clever images and surprising metaphors and so forth, but what I really want from my art is to be touched, and so it makes sense that I should be mining my heart for my own work. It sounds so simple, to be writing from the heart, but I've been struggling with it, and I'll still struggle with it, for lots of reasons.

Whether the poems are any good remains to be seen, but yesterday I did give one to the person who inspired it, and she said that it articulated things she'd felt, but hadn't had the words to say. I'm feeling pretty pleased about that.

Tuesday Poem badge

I've just added the official Tuesday Poem badge, linking to the official Tuesday Poem blog, to my sidebar.

Thanks to Helen Heath for making it, using a picture from Claire Beynon. Should you wish to add it to your own blog, you'll find it here: http://showyourworkings.cybercorp.co.nz/badges.

19 April 2010

Tuesday poem: Theodora's Adventures through the Looking Glass

Theodora’s Adventures through the Looking Glass

i threw myself
head first
into the mirror
i did not look
before i leapt
i watched myself
in awe

i dropped feathers
and daisies
behind me as i
so i could be followed
so i could find my
way back when
the time came
but, miscalculating the
wind velocity,
the flowers and feathers
blew away, away

and so now i am stuck here
where ever this is
with you
who-ever you are

For my Tuesday poem this week I’m back to me. This poem is from my first book, Abstract Internal Furniture (2001). It’s one of a bunch I wrote about a character called Theodora, who was a kind of shapeshifting everywoman. Those of you who know me well, and who have been at parties with me, may recognise that I too drop feathers behind me when I’m wearing a feather boa, which I find, sadly, I do less frequently these days. In any case, it was an inspiration.

For other Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem blog, where you'll find the 'official' Tuesday poem, plus links to many others: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

18 April 2010

Jennifer Compton returns to the Poetry Society

This is rather late notice if you don't already know about it, but poet Jennifer Compton is reading at the Poetry Society tomorrow night. The details:
Our guest poet this month is New Zealand-born and Australia-based Jennifer Compton, currently Writer-in-Residence at Massey University. Jennifer last read for us in 2008, as Randell Cottage Resident.

The meeting will open as always with an open mic and end with a Q&A session with Jennifer. Entry: $5 (members $3)

Monday, 19 April 2010
Thistle Inn
3 Mulgrave Street
Wellington, New Zealand

12 April 2010

Tuesday poem: 'When I have fears that I may cease to be'

By John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Rather than one of my own, I thought I'd share a poem that is well and truly out of copyright.

Over Easter I finally managed to go and see Bright Star, Jane Campion's latest movie, which is about the relationship between Keats and Fanny Brawn. I'd been meaning to see it for ages. I find Jane Campion's movies interesting (I can't say I always like them, but she definitely has a viewpoint), and I've known some people to be really quite batty about Keats, so was curious. I guess I'd hoped that it would help me 'get' Romantic poetry. I've never really got it - much preferring modern poetry instead - but for a long time I've been meaning to give it more of a go.

During the movie, and especially during the credits, there was quite a bit of Keats's poetry read out, but I have to say, it didn't really help me. I still find Romantic poetry fairly impenetrable. Sean described it as hearing someone speak in te reo - a language you understand bits of, but don't really know that well - we understood quite a lot of the words, but certainly not all of it. I felt like there were times when a spotlight was shone on a phrase, that would sparkle and make sense, but in between was all these words that just didn't add up to much.

But anyway, this poem makes perfect sense, is short, and I like it.

For more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

Tuesday poem gets it's own blog

The Tuesday poem phenomena is expanding, and has gotten it's own blog.

The blog will act as a kind of hub, with a feature Tuesday poem, and links to the other Tuesday poets, who will continue publishing a Tuesday poem on their own blogs. Mary McCallum, who started it all, will be posting the first Tuesday poem on the blog this Tuesday. Other Tuesday poets will be taking a turn to be the editor every week.

To see what we're up to, or to get involved, visit the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

11 April 2010

NaPoWriMo, one week (and a bit) in

As I said last week, I was going to do NaPoWriMo this year. And just over a week in, apart from the very first day when I didn't, I've written at least one poem every day.

I was helped by beginning with Easter, where four days off gave me some time to get back into my head and do some writing. I've also been helped by the fact that I'm not doing it publicly, and so told myself I could write whatever crap I felt like, so long as it was a poem, and that it didn't have to be very long. And some of the poems have been rather short, and some of them probably pretty rubbish. But I've written them, every day.

So, I guess what I've been enjoying is the fluency, the feeling that I don't have to wait for inspiration to hit to write poetry, and the feeling of freedom that not requiring it to be deep or even good brings.

That said, while I haven't read over most of the poems yet, I'm feeling resistance to writing stuff that doesn't matter. I'm feeling that it's a bit of a waste of time - there's already a lot of poetry in the world, and the world doesn't need more unnecessary words. I have to say, this has been exacerbated a bit by the fact that I've started reading my way through the JAAM 28 poetry submissions. I don't mean this as a comment on the quality of the submissions - there are some absolute gems already - rather on the sheer volume.

So, it's an interesting tension. I'll keep going for the month, and I'll see at the end if I've gotten much salvageable out of, or if I've gotten something more abstract out of it. Or whether it's just distracting me from properly finishing Cinema (the next book).

08 April 2010

Best New Zealand Poems 2009

Well, no poems from my two 2009 Seraph Press publications (Watching for Smoke and Ithaca Island Bay Leaves) were included in Best New Zealand Poems 2009, though I think they totally deserved to be (well, I would wouldn't I?).

Seraph Press and Watching for Smoke did get a wee mention in 2009 editor Robyn Marsack's introduction though, when she talks about chapbook publishers:
I was glad to see some very beautifully designed and printed publications: from Neoismist Press, from Seraph Press – one with its string and knitting needle (fortunately not impounded at the Post Office), from Gumtree Press and Fernbank Studio/Wellington Plains.
I was pleased that she did include a couple of poems from from JAAM 27 (edited by Ingrid Horrocks): ‘North’ by Sarah Broom and ‘A Hassidic story might start . . .‘ by Lynn Jenner.

JAAM also gets a mention in the intro:
Poets shouldn’t take for granted the handsome New Zealand periodicals – such publications are few and far between here in the north. Landfall, Sport and JAAM suggest a very confident literary culture, and they’re the tip of it – Takahe, Bravado, the online issues such as 4th Floor and Turbine, all create a sense that poets have plenty of ways of getting poems out to readers.
Huh, does that make us the institution?

06 April 2010

Tuesday poem: Chris's life as directed by Ken Russell

Chris’s life, as directed by Ken Russell

Ever since Ken Russell started directing my life
it’s been one explosion after another

And one morning I woke
to find an anteater on my chest
tearing at my throat

‘That’s the anteater of self doubt’
explained Ken, who was standing
beside my wardrobe
just out of shot

(Poem previously published in Sport.)

The Tuesday poem thing really took of last week, with 12 poets joining in. This week there may be even more. Visit O Audacious Book (www.mary-mccallum.blogspot.com) for a list of Tuesday poems. I'll probably add some links later, when I get home from work.

Tuesday poets:

Mary McCallum

Janice Freegard

claire beynon

harvey molloy

helen heath (new)

tim jones

cilla mcqueen - nz poet laureate - who posts monday, wednesday, friday

fifi colston

ilikesweating (new)

paradoxical cat


kay mckenzie cooke

penelope todd

02 April 2010

NaPoWriMo – can I do it?

I didn’t think that NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), where you’re supposed to write a poem a day for all of April, was something I’d ever do. I don’t usually like to write on demand, I hate being told what to do, and I tend to have an itchy reaction to rules.

But, it’s been a pretty slow poetry-writing year, and when Emma said she was planning to do it, I had a sudden feeling that that might be just what I needed to give me a bit more of a poetry-writing kick. Knowing my issues with rules, and with an eye to practicality, I know it’s likely that I won’t write a poem every day, and I’ve accepted that most of the ones I write might well be crap, but if I’m thinking about poetry every day, and trying to write something, that can only be good.

In fact, I’ve already broken the rules. April, and NaPoWriMo, began yesterday and I didn’t even think to write a poem. In my defence, it was the end of a busy week, the JAAM deadline was the day before, and I wasn’t feeling very well. But to make up for it, today I’ve written three poems. Or rather three poem-like things. Unlike many other NaPoWriMo participaters, I will not be publishing my fresh new poems on my blog – I’m generally not much of a poem sharer until I’m pretty happy with something, and it usually takes me quite a bit of time before I know whether I’m happy with it or not.

Of course, April is kind of a stupid month for me to be doing this because, as I mentioned earlier, the deadline for JAAM 28 has just passed, which means that Clare and I are going to spend the next wee while elbow deep in submissions for our DanceDanceDance issue. Though, on the plus side, I find that reading other people’s poetry tends to get me into a poetry space, and can send me spinning off into quite random poetry directions. So, am I planning to parasitically use to your submissions to inspire me to write my own poems? Yes, yes I am.