10 December 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Alice Spider Visits her Nanna' by Janis Freegard

Alice Spider goes to South Shields to visit her Nanna. Nanna doesn't like the Blairs. Every time Cherie comes on the television, Nanna says, that skinny little bitch. Tony fairs no better. He's a crook. Look at him, grinning like a Cheshire cat. He's bloody evil. Nanna doesn't support a united European currency.

People starving in Africa? They should sterilise them. Asylum seekers? Taking jobs from our men. Striking miners? I didn't give them a penny. They never gave the pensioners any coal. Northern Ireland. Your Granddad always used to say, there'll never be peace in Ireland. They should pull the soldiers out and then drop an atom bomb on them.

As long as it only killed the right ones.

Nanna's a Sun reader. She can tell you about every affair that every politician, footballer and television personality has ever had, not to mention their operations. She wasn't sorry when Diana died. EE, she was a slut. Them poor bairns.

(Alice knows that even if she were an Irish miner slut in Africa, Nanna would still get up early to cook bacon and eggs for her breakfast, despite Alice's protests. It's a different kind of love you have for your grandchildren, says Nanna.)

I must have first met Alice Spider in AUP New Poets 3. She's quite charming character, fun to hang out with, but perhaps a little unpredictable. I came across her again in JAAM 28, and then this year she got her own book: The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider (I kind of always knew she would). The book was published by Anomalous Press in the US, and was part of a fun Kickstarter campaign (which is how I got my copy), but you can also get it from Matchbox Studios in Wellington or Unity Books in Wellington.

I chose this poem simply because it appeals to me, but I'm having a bit of trouble articulating why. I find it quite funny, in a wry way, though bigotry shouldn't be funny. I guess it's the split, the tension, between the good person you know and love, and the terrible things they say and think. 

Janis Freegard's debut poetry collection, Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus, was published in 2011 by Auckland University Press. She also writes fiction and is a past winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award.  She lives in Wellington with an historian and a cat. She has been writing poems about Alice Spider since she was 18. I expect to see Alice around some more, having new adventures, some time in the future.

For more poems, visit The Tuesday Poem blog: 

02 December 2013

What do editors want?

A few weeks ago, at the Hawke’s Bay poetry conference (which I blogged about a little a few weeks ago), I was on a panel called ‘What do editors want?’ (or something like that). This is editors of a commissioning editor sort, rather than a copyeditor sort (which I also am). On the panel with me were Siobhan Harvey, who has edited issues of Poetry NZ and has been the poetry editor of Takahē, Nicholas Reid, who has edited several issues of Poetry NZ, and Doc Drumheller, editor of Catalyst. It was a good session, chaired by Laurice Gilbert, president of the Poetry Society.

But, we each had five minutes to speak at first, to answer the question from our own perspectives. And, while I didn’t think my bullet points would take very long to cover, and I worried that I wouldn’t have enough to say, turned out I had HEAPS to say! I really didn’t cover all of the points I wanted to make. So I decided I would turn my notes into a blog post, in the hopes that they will be useful. So, here goes….

I’m going to talk to today with two hats on – two imaginary hats – one is as the co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine, and the other as the managing editor and general dogsbody of Seraph Press. [I think in the actual talk I burbled for quite a while about both of them and held up some books to show off how pretty they are, etc…] The things I’m looking for in each role are similar, but there are some differences too.

As the only one of us who is also a book publisher, I might concentrate a bit more on that [I totally didn’t, because I was running out of time…]

So, what do editors want, apart from fame, fortune and world peace? Well, I’m going to talk about what I want as an editor, and assume that other editors want something similar.

  • I want good writing. Or, to be more specific I want writing that I think is good writing to me. Let’s be honest, subjectivity does come into it – editors do have their own taste and can only back things they can see the merit it. Through reading a journal, or through submitting to it, you can get a sense of the sort of things an editor will like, and find editors who appreciate the sort of work you’re doing.
  • I want writing that speaks to me, surprises me, expands me. Things like fresh new images, ideas or ways of saying things. If you’re saying the same thing as everyone else in the same way, then it’s not going to excite me. But if you say new things, or say them in a new way, then I’ll notice. Read over your work and look out for clichés. And then take them out, or make them new somehow. Originality – your own voice. Beautiful language, which doesn’t have to be flowery – it could be really spare.
  • I want writing that gives me a little shot of jealousy.I want you to read the submission guidelines.
  • And I want you to follow them. Don’t send too many poems (or stories) and don’t send too few. About three to six poems is generally a good number. I'm not as strict as some editors - some won't even read your submission if you don't follow the guidelines to the letter. But I will probably be less well-disposed to your submission than I would be otherwise.
  • I want you to not be discouraged by rejection, but be gracious and try again. When you start out, especially, it’s wise to expect to have your work rejected (and then be delighted when it isn’t).
  • I want you to read other people’s writing, past and present. And buy other people’s books (especially New Zealand poetry) and literary journals (especially JAAM!) New Zealand's literary culture won't thrive unless we support it.
  • I want you to always try to become a better writer. I want you to be constantly aiming to grow and develop your craft. To push yourself.
For a Seraph Press book
  • I want all of the above, but to an even higher standard.

  • I want work I’m in love with – its my money and, more importantly, my time, and I need it to be a project I love so much that won’t resent it.

  • I want poems that work together to create a whole book – that’s more than the sum of its parts. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be thematic though.

  • I want a manuscript of even quality – cut out the weaker ones, or make them better. I want you have worked hard on it, and perhaps had other trusted people read over the manuscript and give you feedback before you even send it to me.
  • That said, I want to be able to work with you on polishing the collection. I want you to be willing to work and collaborate with me to make the work shine. To make a collection we're both happy with and stand behind. So I want to you to be open to input, and I want to you to know your own mind.

  • I would expect to have heard of you before – if not, why not? Not because I only publish ‘name’ poets, but because I want you to be engaged with the poetry community in some way, to have published some poems in literary journals, to go to readings, to be involved in poetry on the internet, or be involved in the community in some other way. (This isn’t the case at all with JAAM though – we don’t care at all if we’ve never heard of you before, so long as we love your work.)
  • I want to know why you want ME to publish your book. I’d want you to be familiar with what I’ve published before. I don't want it to just be because I'm a publisher, and any publisher will do.
After each panelist had spoken individually, the we also answered some questions – though we didn’t all answer all of them. But I had prepared answers for all of them, so I’ll include them all here.

As editors, who do you consider your readers are? 
The readers of literary magazines are generally other writers. Also the friends and relatives of the contributors (especially if it’s their first publication – friends and relatives are less excited when you start racking up a lot of publications). There are also a few wonderful, precious people who aren’t writers but are just interested in literature.

Is it harder to get accepted the first time you submit something?
In terms of your first submission anywhere, yes, I think it is, simply because you’re likely to be a newer writer and not as good yet as you’re going to become. In terms of your first time submitting to JAAM – I don’t think so. The work stands on its own merit, and if the editor loves it then it goes in. Quite a lot of writers who have carried on to fabulous things have had their first publication in JAAM, and I’m really proud of that.

Are there some topics editors prefer to avoid? – and if so which?
I think that depends on both the editor and how the topic is approached. I don’t think any subject is necessarily off limits. Personally, I wouldn’t publish something that I consider abhorrent, like a racist poem, but a poem about racism could be great.

What percentage of the poems submitted for publication in your journal is accepted.
We haven’t scientifically analysed the stats lately, but we estimate that around 20% of submitters to JAAM will have work accepted. We’re becoming quite a big journal, but we get a lot of submissions, including quite a lot from overseas (of which we publish hardly any, because we're primarily a journal for New Zealand writing).

I'm sure there are heaps of other things I should say, like always include a covering letter, and return postage if you're still posting (for JAAM, we'd rather you emailed), but it's a bit of a brain dump. Thoughts?

19 November 2013

Tuesday poem: 'Sigourney Weaver and I Go to Bed' by Emma Barnes

Sigourney Weaver and I Go to Bed

Sigourney Weaver flew me some place on what seemed a too small
aeroplane. We didn’t talk about her appearance in Avatar. The
papyrus got between us: A font of discontent. She held my hand
inside her shirt and said that she just wanted me to hold her up.
I had a potato gun in my back pocket. She passed the tuber.

After landing we arrived at a white bed. It seemed as tall as she was
to me: a more dumpling sized human. There were steps around the
edges and the middle was a long marshmallow cloudland in the style
of my home country. I could see her foggy outline reflected in the
roof. Her flannelette pyjamas were covered in the faces of dogs.

‘This is where we go to bed’ she said. I looked up into her size-9
eyes. ‘But, I’m more of a cat person?’ This was just like going out with
the 42-year-old butch I dated when I was 21. A lot of determined
looks and short phrasing. But she was already up on the mountainy
pillowtop and a long, slender arm loomed at me. The life rope of

a completely different social class. This place was no Dream Father
mansion, but it sure had something going for it. I was lying in bed 
with you. It was a Thursday. Outside the white noise said it was 
summer and the cicadas were okay with that. It had been clear weather
for almost ten days. Standing in the sun a person could be 

described as hot. But I’m not allowed to write letters in bed, says
Sigourney. The ink will make a mess of the linen. So I lie there
composing in my head. In bed with Sigourney Weaver. In bed with
you. She can palm a basketball. You’re more of a music man than
sports fan. Sigourney Weaver and I go to bed. All I can think of is you.

Emma Barnes

(Please forgive some of the line breaks, my design just isn't wide enough to fit the longest lines)

I wanted to share this poem because Emma read it at the launch we had for JAAM 31 on Friday, at 19 Tory, a space run by the Concerned Citizens Collective (thanks guys!). We hadn't had a bit public launch for JAAM for a long time - or actually maybe never. (Though we have had smaller launches from time to time, but not that often.) It was really lovely to gather together the Wellington-based contributors (though more of them are scattered around the country) and have a celebration. It was nice to put some faces to names, and also people could put our faces to our names. JAAM has been quite an anonymous work sometimes and it was good to connect with some of our community.

Cover image by Andy Palmer, cover design by me

But the big treat was having some readings from a few of the wonderful writers whose work is in JAAM - Helen Heath, Tim Jones, Pip Adam, Sandi Sartorelli, Lucy Kirton, Chris Tse and Emma - and there were more writers we would have loved to have had read too.

This poem by Emma is just one of three 'Sigourney Weaver' poems in this issue of JAAM, which are just three of many of a wonderful series. They're all quite different, but they all have the same form, and a similar tone I think. I've been loving seeing more and more of them appear

As well as in JAAM, you can read more of them in the recently published 4th Floor journal, and in Cordite, and you can listen to some on Soundcloud here and here (this is the poem above).

And once you're done with Sigourney Weaver, you might want to check out some other Tuesday poems at the hub: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

12 November 2013

Tuesday Poems and 4th Floor and Ray Harryhausen

A poem of mine, 'I hear you singing in the next room' is the Tuesday Poem over at the hub blog this week! Thanks so much to Janis Freegard for selecting it. It was published in My Iron Spine.

There's also a poem of mine, 'Vana’s life, as directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski and Ray Harryhausen', in the just-launched issue of 4th Floor Literary Journal, which is published by Whitireia Polytechnic and edited by the very lovely and talented Hinemoana Baker. This poem came to me, or started to come to me, when I thought I'd already finished the manuscript for Cinema, and so was a late arrival. And actually it arrived in two parts - I  had the beginning, but didn't know where it would go, or even if it needed to go anywhere - it could have stayed an almost haiku. But a few months later I sat with it again and the rest turned up. It seemed a good ending poem - a goodbye-to-the-project swansong. And I've put it near the end of the book - though not the very end.

Ray Harryhausen and some of his creations
Subsequently I've seen quite a few more Ray Harryhausen films - he died not long after I wrote the poem. If you're interested in his films, they've been showing a retrospective at The Roxy in Miramar, and this Sunday it's Jason and the Argonauts, which I think might be my favourite of his films. Or maybe that's Clash of the Titans... anyway...

There's heaps of other great poems and stories in this special issue of 4th Floor, which marks the 20th anniversary of the writing course at Whitireia, but also of the publishing course, which I did many mumble years ago and in which I learned heaps of useful things that has kept me in gainful employment and has also helped me with various publishing ventures. I haven't had a chance to read this issue thoroughly, but can see from the contents page that there are heaps of my favourite writers in there, and probably lots of yours too.

05 November 2013

Tuesday poem over on the Tuesday Poem, and Hawke's Bay poetry conference

I'm the editor of the Tuesday Poem blog this week. I always enjoy having the opportunity to share a poem I love, and this time I've chosen a poem, 'No time like the ‘80s/ No future' by Airini Beautrais, from the latest issue of JAAM, which has just come back from the printers and is filling up a large area of my dining room. It's a great issue, guest edited by Harvey Molloy (poetry) and Clare Needham (prose), and I hope you will get yourself a copy. You could even subscribe and we will send it to your letterbox!

In other news, I'm just back from a poetry conference in the Hawke's Bay. It was organised to celebrate the 20th (or maybe 21st) anniversary of their Live Poets Society group. It was such a lovely conference with a really good, open, sharing feeling. There was such a variety of poets - different ages and levels of experience, and totally different styles of poetry. And very democratic. The only poet who got longer than anyone else to read was Vincent O'Sullivan as the poet laureate. All the rest of us invited readers only got 10 minutes - strictly enforced!

I got to read my poetry on Saturday night, and I was also involved in a panel discussion about what editors want (what don't we want!) yesterday morning. Due to poor time management and having too much to say, I think I only said about half of what I wanted to say. So I have an idea I might write it up as a blog post.

14 October 2013

Happy 125th birthday Katherine Mansfield

Today it is 125 years since Katherine Mansfield was born. Apparently the weather was really crap then too. Her story 'A birthday' was apparently sort of about the day she was born, and there was a 'southerly buster'. I'm not sure which direction the wind and rain is coming from today, but it's sure blowing a gale. I guess those are the dangers of spring in Wellington.

Anyway, in honour of her birthday I wrote a blog post about her on my work blog, over here: http://blog.teara.govt.nz/2013/10/14/who-the-hell-was-katherine-mansfield/. I hope you might go read it, as I'm rather pleased with it and I hope it explains a bit about why I'm such a fan of KM. (It was very hard to write - I had too much to say!) I'd also be delighted if you contributed to the debate in the comments, especially about the statue of/for her in Wellington. The reasons people give about whether they like it or not tend to be the same reasons. Everyone finds creepy and robotic, some of us just quite like that.

In my blog post I mention that KM was the first woman in all of London to wear stockings. When I wrote a poem (well, actually one of two) about her for My Iron Spine I included that fact (at least, I think it's true). You can read the poem here: http://wingedink.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/tuesday-poem-partying-with-katherine.html.

06 September 2013

My Iron Spine gets some love, and what I'm doing today

Matchbox Studios, a really lovely art gallery/shop/studio on Cuba Street, has started stocking my Seraph Press books (ie published by me). I also took down some copies of my own books (ie written by me), and they're selling them too. And they've made My Iron Spine their 'zine' of the month! Simon Gennard's review is really lovely, and I'm buzzing that it's getting some nice attention when it's five years old.

What I'm doing today is working on the (hopefully) final revisions of its newest sibling. (I'll tell you more about that exciting news soon.)

I've taken the day off work to have a poetry day; so I've been moving some poems around the manuscript and reworking a couple of more troublesome ones that I know (and my readers have pointed out) aren't quite there yet, but which I still want in the book and so have to lift them. This one, 'Revolutions', has been in many forms over the years since I first wrote it. You can read it in an earlier form here: http://snorkel.org.au/015/rickerby.html.

But I've been turning it over, and around, in my mind, and this is what I've come up with. I'm much happier with it now. I hope you think it's better too:
(If you listen closely, you'll hear hammering and so forth, which comes from the builders working away downstairs, who also inspired a poem I wrote earlier this morning.)

And now back to the poetry!

26 August 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Deep water talk' by Kiri Piahana-Wong

Deep water talk

In honour of Hone Tuwhare

& no-one knows
if your eyes are
blurred red from
the wind, too
much sun, or the
tears streaking your
face that could be
tears or just lines of
dried salt, who
can tell

& you never can tell
if you are seasick,
drunk, or just
symptoms are the

& sea and sky merge
until the horizon is
nothing but an
endless blue line in
every direction, so that
you are sailing, not on
the sea, as you thought,
but in a perfectly blue,
circular bowl, never
leaving the centre

& you wonder who
is moving, you or
the clouds racing
by the mast-head

& you wonder if
those dark shapes
in the water are
sharks, shadows, or
nothing but old fears
chasing along behind

& the great mass of
land recedes, you
forget you were
a land-dweller,
feeling the pull
of ancient genes,
—in every tide, your
blood sings against
the moon

& food never tasted
so good, or water
so sweet—you've
never conserved water
by drinking wine
before—and rum;
and coke; and rum
and coke; and can
after can of cold

& your sleep is
accompanied, not
by the road of traffic
on the highway,
but by the creaks
and twangs of your
ship as she pitches
and moans through
the dark ocean,
all alone

& you wonder—
where did that bird,
the great gull perching
on the bowspit,
come from?

Kiri Piahana-Wong is a New Zealander of Māori (Ngāti Ranginui), Chinese and Pākehā (English) ancestry. She has degrees in law and English literature from the University of Auckland, and has had a varied working life, including roles as a legal editor, sailing instructor, freelance writer, event manager and publisher. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most recently in Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems (Godwit), Mauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (AUP), Trout, and Ora Nui. She is also a performance poet, poetry slam champion, and a former MC at Poetry Live, New Zealand's longest-running live poetry venue. Kiri lives at Laingholm on Auckland's west coast.

This poem is the first poem in Night Swimming, the debut collection by Kiri Piahana-Wong. It's the perfect poem to begin the collection, a good, strong poem, heavy with silence and the weight of the Pacific Ocean. I think my favourite bit of the poem is: 'you are sailing, not on / the sea, as you thought, / but in a perfectly blue, / circular bowl'. Gorgeous!

Water runs through the poems of this book in many forms - rain, tears, swimming pools, ice, rivers, clouds, fog, but especially the sea. The poems themselves have a lot of variety though, in tone and in subject matter. The gravity poems like 'Deep water talk' are balanced with more conversational, busier poems. Other favourites in this collection are 'On Commerce St' both 1 and 2, which chronicle life in an inner-city apartment, and 'Continental drift'.

Night Swimming was published by Anahera Press, a small press which focuses on poetry by Māori and Pasifika writers, which Kiri founded in 2011. If you want to buy Night Swimming, you can buy it from the Anahera Press website, from a variety a bookshops including the Women's Bookshop, or by rocking up to your local favourite bookshop and ordering it, as I did.

For more poems, check out the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

29 July 2013

Tuesday poem: 'Swimming lessons with Virginia Woolf '

Swimming lessons with Virginia Woolf

Virginia and I
float downstream
Our overcoats billow
surround us
I worry my feet
will get caught
in the Medusa weeds
that wait in the shadows

‘We all have boulders in our pockets’
she says
‘Most we place there
ourselves, some we are given
Medea gifts, poison’

I watch the banks
as we pass
I roll onto my back
she laughs at my Ophelia
Now my hair is wet
‘Look,’ she says
and there are golden fish
swimming beneath us

Virginia with her friend Lytton Strachey

I've been away for the weekend. It was wonderful. Mere hours after leaving behind ordinary life and all those little obligations, I was scribbling away in my notebook. I felt like my writing brain had switched on. (I've been pretty busy lately, doing stuff like this: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2013/07/the-rope-walk-has-set-sail.html).

As well as writing (and sometimes inspiring the writing) I was also finishing off a gigantic biography of Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee, which I had been reading for months. It's a fabulous biography, but it was helpful to have read a shorter and more strictly chronological biography just before. Because Lee's biography, rather than being strictly chronological, is arranged thematically. I feel that method of arrangement would likely have had Woolf's approval, being an experimental sort of writer, with an interest in pushing boundaries.

Part of the problem of reading the end of the biography more quickly, over a leisurely weekend, is that it had the effect of speeding up the later part of her life, which was a bit startling. And I felt like the book ended abruptly, with her death. While in does seem kind of sensible for a biography to end with the subject's death, I had felt certain hers would be different. She has not only lived on through her work, but actually grown in literary stature. I was expecting a detailed look at how Leonard Woolf (her husband) dealt with her literary legacy, how scholars, critics and of course readers have changed in their responses to her work. How she has influenced others who have come after. There was a bit of that, but in a rush. Perhaps I've just read too many biographies of Katherine Mansfield, where people are always arguing about that sort of thing - about whether her widower (John Middleton Murry) exploited her memory and her work. But I was surprised that there doesn't seem to have been any (that I've read at least) criticism of Leonard Woolf for publishing so much of her work posthumously, when she explicitly said on the back of the note she'd left for Leonard to find after she'd drowned herself in the River Ous, 'Will you destroy my papers'.

But I digress, as I often do. Reading about her, and about her death, sent me back to this poem. This is the final, finished version (which was published in My Iron Spine), but I wrote an earlier version, which I read again a wee while ago. It was much darker. Much more depressing. But it wasn't what I wanted. It wasn't right for Virginia (as I most impolitely think of her). Because although she had difficult times in her life, including at the end, when – in the middle of the Second World War, when she and her friends justifiably believed invasion might be imminent, and they were on the 'Black List' – she was so scared that she was going mad again that death seemed the better option. But most of her life wasn't like that. Most of her life she was ALIVE, and witty and busy and bitchy and a good friend and a challenger of the status quo and many many other things. So I didn't want my poem about her to be all doom and gloom. I wanted life and colour and hope, along with the rocks in our pockets.

Anyway, that's enough from me. If you head on over to the Tuesday Poem hub blog, you'll find lots more poems: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

03 July 2013

You're invited

(I know that's too small to read, due to the silly design of my blog. Sorry. The details are here: http://www.facebook.com/events/202894136531214/)

18 June 2013

Tuesday Poem: '1989' by Maria McMillan


I became vegetarian
and the freezing works

closed down. My father
lost his job and sat all day

in each seat of the house
and stared at me. I never

knew where I would find him.
I liked him then, doleful

and angry, stuff opening
and closing in front of him

like the mouth
of some dumb fish.

Later there were fights.
Later he started smiling.

He chose the right-
hand side of the sofa.

His breath smelt different.
The city puckered

around the place
the works had been,

like skin around the
place it’s been punctured.

Heidi and me’d meet there
walk around the white

building, counting
the broken windows,

talk of man’s awesome cruelty –
how they’d stun the cows

before they killed them
to hide the fear

and keep the meat
soft and sweet.

So, what I've been doing lately is working on the book this poem is from, The Rope Walk, the next book I'm publishing as Seraph Press. This is Maria's first collection, but she's been writing for quite some time, which is apparent in the skill she brings to the poems in the book. The book is made up of 24 poems that tell the story, or bits of stories, of several generations of a family, from a rope maker in Scotland to an aerialist in New Zealand in the 1990s.

In a blog post Maria talks about some of what inspired her to write this poems (over almost a decade):
I became fascinated with the idea of waves of people from Scotland and England, leaving their countries, their parents, their siblings, the graves of their ancestors and coming somewhere new. And then sometimes awful ship journeys where babies died, and adults too. And then arriving somewhere so utterly different. There must have been so much grief with that. And then I started thinking about how every generation seems to go through some major losses, men being lost in wars, the soul destroying recession of the 1980s, the suicides, the bitter thread through all those years of violence against women. I think grief often isn't dealt with well, and what does that mean, and how does that get passed on down the generations. All that feeds into the book, You might not realise it reading the poems, some of which I hasten to add, are more joyful than sad, but all that stuff is going on there in the background. 

This poem, '1989', comes later in the chronology (though is towards the beginning of the book). It's one of my favourites, probably because it deals with my own era, and is the very year I date my own end of the golden weather (ie my childhood) from, because that was the year a lot of things (friendships, friends) began to fall apart. It has the lovely idealism, cynicism and understanding, but also a limited understanding, of youth. 'Man's awesome cruelty' (what a lovely phrase!) doesn't just extend to animals, of course, it extends to other people too.

One thing I just noticed especially now - as I had to add line breaks back in because stupid blogger took them all out - is how satisfying the line breaks are. There's some lovely subtle enjambment going on: never/knew, doleful/and angry. And also line breaks that serve to emphasise the final word of the line, rather than have us gliding on over. The final rhyming couplet is a oddly jaunty and creepy end.

As well as having gorgeous poems, the book is also going to have a gorgeous cover:

It's been letterpress printed by Joe Buchanan, Maria's partner, and yes, that is a die cut (ie hole) in the centre, through which we can see a linocut of a sailing ship, also done by the very talented Joe.

We're launching it on Saturday 13th July, at 3 pm, at the Aro Community Centre, Aro Street. Hope you can come along. Here's the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/202894136531214/.

And now, if you're in search of other poems, head on over to the hub blog, where you'll find a poem about Palmerston North by Jennifer Compton, and links to other new Tuesday Poems:  http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

01 June 2013

So, I seem to have published a bestselling book...

It's been a pretty cool week. After the book launches of the week before, we went away last weekend, and spent the weekend reading, writing, rebalancing, wandering around, watching DVDs and spending as much time as possible sitting in front of the open fire.

And then this week, on Thursday, I found out the The Baker's Thumbprint (the book I've just published) was number 7 on the NZ fiction bestseller list! Look here if you need proof (I certainly did!): http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2013/05/the-bakers-thumbprint-debuts-at-no7-on-nz-fiction-bestseller-list.html.

I'm really blown away and excited. And kind of shocked. I know it's due to having the books turn up at bookshops the same week we had two launches (one in Auckland and one in Wellington), and it's also the first time I've sold all the launch books through bookshops, rather than directly, but it's also due to Paula Green, who has a very strong personal following. But I think it also is signalling that Seraph Press is getting to a new level of respect, which makes me very happy.

I doubt that the book will keep up quite that high level of sales, but Paula is going to be interviewed on Arts on Sunday on the radio tomorrow (http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2013/05/paula-green-on-arts-on-sunday.html), so hopefully that will spark more interest.

And now I need to get the next book (The Rope Walk, by Maria McMillan) finished!

27 May 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'The Nail' by Therese Lloyd

The Nail

Where I am—generic architecture
like a barn or a bach but
neither of those things
Feral fennel clots the air with ammonia
and the usual marks are everywhere—
burnt stumps and discarded branches
their currency clattering at the night-window

I've made a list of things I will steal:
a Crown Lynn cup and saucer
an ashtray printed with Foxton: the Foxy Town
and a remote control like the one I lost—
but I won't, I will leave this place
cleaner than when I arrived

If I could get things right on a small scale
if I could lay the right things
at the feet of the wooden women
who circle the ladder to heaven
Or reign Foveaux's rusty breath
to skirt these hingeless doors
But my vision is split like a horse's
and my pockets hurt from the fists
I've shoved in them

Round back the muttonbirders are dumping the buckets
of bodies in the kitchen sink
the ovens and deep fryers gearing up a notch
We prepare ourselves by mumbling a song
taught to us this morning
half naïve native, half colonial hucksters
sung to a Beatles tune
Standing on the grass, I let a nail
pushed from rusted metal
pierce the sole of my shoe

Therese Lloyd

This poem comes from Therese Lloyd's poetry collection Other Animals, which was published earlier this year, and which I've recently finished reading.There's a fresh voice in the poems. I particularly wanted to share this poem because there are several bits in it that when I read them I had that twinge you sometimes have when you kinda wish you'd written them.

In case you're nosey to know, they are: 'I've made a list of the things I will steal:/A Crown Lynn cup and saucer/an ashtray printed with Foxton: the Foxy Town'; 'if I could lay the right things/at the feet of the wooden women/who circle the ladder to heaven' and 'my pockets hurt from the fists/I've shoved in them'.

The last of these matches nicely with the the last few lines - the actor and the acted upon are switched - the narrator 'lets' the nail pierce her shoe (and, perhaps, more gruesomely her foot); the pockets are sore, not the fists.

I'm not quite sure what's going on in this poem, but clues suggest a stay on Stewart Island/Rakiura, or possibly one of the Tītī (muttonbird) Islands. It's certainly during muttonbird season. Where ever it is, it seems like the end of the earth.

As well as Other Animals, Therese has also had a very limited edition collection of her work, Many Things Happened, published by Pania Press. She spent a year attending the Iowa Writers' Workshop after being awarded the Schaeffer scholarship, and now is back living in Paekakariki.

And there are more Tuesday Poems, for your reading pleasure, over at the hub: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

13 May 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Thursday' by Paula Green

(for Jenny Bornholdt)

If you look beneath the floorboards
of this poem you might find
endless days of rain and wind
on the Waitākere Ranges.

Between the walls you might see
a garden that needs spring plants.

You might stumble upon
the story of a mathematician
who knits patches for a quilt because she
can never recall what she saw
the month before

or the story of a philosopher
who walks in circles
to seek the meaning of life
or lost things or why the heart
and not the lungs
registers the pulse of love.

My house waits
with its creaking walls
and everything
is the same and then

The wind crackles.
The bouillabaisse needs stirring.
Perhaps it needs more salt.

Paula Green

I can't believe it's launch week already. On Saturday we've got the Auckland launch of The Baker's Thumbprint, and then next week it's the Wellington launch.

'Thursday' is the first poem in the book, and as soon as I read this in the manuscript I was pretty sure this was a book I wanted to publish. It's just gorgeous. My favourite lines are 'why the heart / and not the lungs /
registers the pulse of love', but there are so many more to love. It's a quiet, contemplative beginning to playful and frequently energetic book, but it has several of the themes that continue through the whole - secrets waiting to be discovered, philosophy, place, home and lunch - there's always lots of good food in a Paula Green book!

As ever, more Tuesday Poems await over at the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

11 May 2013

Launching The Baker's Thumbprint, Auckland and Wellington

If I haven't invited you already, then consider yourself invited!

We're launching Paula Green's new collection The Baker's Thumbprint (which I am/Seraph Press is publishing) in both Auckland and Wellington on the 18th and 21st of May. Come along to one or other, or both! The launch invitations are below, and the Facebook events are here for Auckland: http://www.facebook.com/events/468081233260334/ or here for Wellington: http://www.facebook.com/events/163956803780493/.

07 May 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Immigrant' by Fleur Adcock

In the above clip Fleur Adcock introduces and reads her poem 'Immigrant'. She's back in New Zealand for a visit from the UK, to launch her latest book, Glass Wings. I went to see her in conversation with Harry Ricketts last night, and I was fortunate enough to have afternoon tea with her on Friday. We very much claim her as a New Zealand poet - I certainly do, I see her as a foremother of us New Zealand woman poets - and yet she hasn't spent much of her life here in New Zealand. This poem is about a time when she was shedding her (unwanted) New Zealandness, when she'd escaped back to the UK, but New Zealand still had its claws on her.

More Tuesday Poems over on the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

15 April 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Sylvia and Ted'

This feels like cheating, as it's one I prepared earlier, but here's me reading my poem 'Sylvia and Ted':

More Tuesday poems on the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

02 April 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Sigourney Weaver and the Dream Father' by Emma Barnes

A few weeks ago was The Difficult Second Twitter Poetry Night NZ on Twitter. If you missed it, or want to relive it, you can find it 'Storified' here: http://storify.com/ashleigh_young/the-difficult-second-twitter-poetry-night. There were lots of wonderful poems in wonderful voices - the voices sound so warm. I shared 'Emily Dickinson at home'.

But the poem I wanted to share as my Tuesday poem is Emma Barnes's 'Sigourney Weaver and the Dream Father'. I also heard Emma read it recently at Valhalla (in Raumati, rather than the mythical place), and I like it very much. My fav bit is I think the bit where Sigourney Weaver turns the tap on the phone. You'll have to listen to it:

Also, it's the Tuesday Poem blog's third birthday (my god!) and so we're writing an accumulating communal poem. I've just left my bit: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/2013/04/3rd-birthday-communal-jazz-poem.html. More Tuesday poems in the sidebar, including my poem 'Curtains', which Mary McCallum is sharing on her blog this week: http://mary-mccallum.blogspot.co.nz/2013/04/tuesday-poem-curtains-by-helen-rickerby.html

25 March 2013

Tuesday Poem: When X Doesn't Mark the Spot

When X Doesn't Mark the Spot 

There are images we can use
to explain how you are

We can say that
you have run out of masks
I ask you who you are
and you can only say
who you once have been

You are an actor
on stage
without a script
without a costume
the spotlight shines brightly
as you stand
alone and naked
on an empty stage

Another metaphor
is that you are a painting
all the colours have been removed
even the under drawing
the lines to guide the brush
have gone
all that is left is the primer
all that you have left is
a bare white canvas
and the knowledge that somewhere
there is a painting
waiting to be

This was the first poem of mine to ever get published (well, anywhere other than the school magazine), back in, um 1995 maybe? It was in Poetry NZ, and I was very proud. I'm posting this in honour of the subject, who has had to put up with being in quite a few of my poems over the years. She's just had a special birthday and is coming to stay, briefly, for she is a woman of itchy feet.

More Tuesday Poems over here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

20 March 2013

Helens read poetry on the coast this week

Helen H and Helen L and some other cool folks, and I've written about it over on the Seraph Press site and find I'm to lazy to write about it here: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2013/03/helens-on-the-coast-this-weekend.html.

16 March 2013

Second occasional Twitter Poetry Night NZ on Sunday

The first one was a great success (I blogged about it here: http://wingedink.blogspot.co.nz/2012/12/twitter-poetry-night-nz-last-night.html), so I'm looking forward to the Second Twitter Poetry Night NZ on Sunday. Here's everything you need to know, probably: http://twitterpoetrynightnz.tumblr.com/.

04 March 2013

Tuesday Poem: '4 March'

4 March

A man pulls bread out of his trouser pocket with a shaking hand
and throws it towards the pigeons

Sometimes I catch a glimpse
of all the sadness in the world

It's most unlike me to share just-written work, but sometimes I like to be unpredictable, even to myself. So, this is a poem I wrote earlier this evening.

More Tuesday Poems here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

25 February 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Incident' by Fleur Adcock


When you were lying on the white sand,
A rock under your head, and smiling,
(Circled by dead shells), I came to you
And you said, reaching to take my hand,
‘Lie down.’ So for a time we lay
Warm on the sand, talking and smoking,
Easy; while the grovelling sea behind
Sucked at the rocks and measured the day.
Lightly I fell asleep then, and fell
Into a cavernous dream of falling.
It was all the cave-myths, it was all
The myths of tunnel or tower or well—
Alice’s rabbit-hole into the ground,
Or the path of Orpheus: a spiral suitcase 
To hell, furnished with danger and doubt.
Stumbling, I suddenly woke; and found
Water about me. My hair was wet,
And you were sitting on the grey sand,
Waiting for the lapping tide to take me:
Watching, and lighting a cigarette.

Fleur Adcock

I’m the editor of the Tuesday Poem blog this week, and I’m excited to have been able to share ‘Crayfish’, a new poem by Fleur Adcock – one of my poetic heroes. As I say over there, I was lucky enough to have read with her and Anna Jackson in London last year. Hearing her new poems sent me back to her old poems, and I recently re-read Tigers (Oxford University Press, 1967), which was Fleur’s second poetry collection.

I first discovered Fleur’s poetry in the later years of high school, and this was one of the collections I read and reread. Reading it again now, I can very much see why it appealed to me. I was a somewhat melancholy and romantic child, and I adored myth and surrealism (still do, though I’ve ditched most of the romanticism and quite a lot of the melancholy) and this book has those in spades, as does ‘Incident’, which is probably my favourite poem in this collection. In this, and in many of the other poems, there’s an underlying darkness. Other people aren’t to be trusted. Don’t close your eyes, or there’ll be nightmares, and when you wake someone might be watching you with mild interest, waiting for you to drown.

Do go check out the brand new poem by Fleur at the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/, and there you’ll also find lots more Tuesday Poems in the sidebar.

20 February 2013

Wednesday Poem: 'The Summer Day' by Mary Oliver

I'm a bit late for the Tuesday poem, but never mind. And I'm not going to post the poem here (not having permission and all), but I am going to link to it: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html. I recommend you go read it now, before popping back to read this.

I'm not really familiar with Mary Oliver's poetry, though her name keeps coming up. I discovered this poem yesterday via a post by Helen Lehndorf. Helen had 'written' words from the last line on an apple pie (it's really worth a look), and linked to the poem. It's quite short, so I thought I'd read it.

For me, it didn't start out all that promising. It reminds me at first of a children's prayer or something, and nature poetry - oh nature poetry, I must confess you almost always bore me. But I kept going - it's just a short poem - and then it started picking up for me here:
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
And then it quietly and simply, with this kicker ending, becomes one of my favourite poems ever:
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

It's an end that could have very easily been a bit twee, and probably would be if it wasn't for that pairing of words from the top of the pie: 'wild and precious', which together in that context are a bit of a surprise, and delightful. They make me feel I could live wildly and preciously, just as she says (and I hope I do). I guess perhaps I should check out more of Mary Oliver's poetry then...

Head on over to the Tuesday Poem blog, where this week's editor Catherine Fitchett shares 'Fault' a poem by Christchurch poet Joanna Preston. It's a really restrained, powerful and very very good poem about the Canterbury Earthquakes: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/fault-by-joanna-preston.html.

12 February 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Partying with Katherine Mansfield'

You can listen to me read it by clicking the play button above, and you can follow along with the text below...

Partying with Katherine Mansfield

‘Don’t be a bore,’ says Katie
as she pulls me up by my arm
to the dance floor

She was proud to be the first woman
in the whole of London to wear purple stockings
She shows them off as she shimmies
her skirt above her knees

I teach her the twist and she spirals off
towards D H who has found
an ironing board from somewhere and
they take turns at sliding down, shrieking with laughter

She’s smiling and kissing
everyone in the room, sipping punch
now joining me at the open window
breathing in the cool night air

‘Today is a new day, a new year, a new age
It’s a new world,’ she says
‘We mustn’t live as if it isn’t’

I've shared this poem by me previously (though quite a while ago), but it seemed appropriate to share it again as this weekend there was a big Katherine Mansfield conference in Wellington. I didn't go along, but several of my friends did and it gave me a good opportunity to meet another of our Tuesday Poets Kathleen Jones and her husband. Kathleen is the author of the the most recent (and, in my opinion) best biography of KM.

I recorded the poem in the very high-tech studio of my bedroom with my phone. If you listen hard around the 40-second mark and a couple of times after, you'll hear a screeching which was one of the neighbour kaka screaming around nearby. It was a bit of an experiment, but I'd first done this fairly successfully when we had Twitter Poetry Night a few months ago.

There are lots more Tuesday Poems, which you can reach from the hub blog, and at the hub blog you'll find a poem by C. K. Stead from his new book, with an introduction (or postroduction?) from by Mary McCallum: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz.

10 February 2013

Ballroom Poetry becomes Meow Poetry

And Helen Heath and Lynn Davidson are the first guest readers. There's a Facebook event for it here, if you like that sort of thing: http://www.facebook.com/events/208400982636949/
Here's what they say: 
Poetry at Meow Cafe
Yes, we're back - Poetry at The Ballroom Cafe has found a new home at Meow
Cafe. New surroundings, but same wonderful mix of poetry and music, open
mic and guest performances.

Our first programme at Meow Cafe will include a special tribute to Kathy
and The Ballroom Cafe, so I hope you can join us.

Guest Poets: Helen Heath & Lynn Davidson
Guest Musicians: Ramon Oza & Susie Colien-Reid of Black Eyed Susie
Plus open mic, starting at 4pm
Time: Sunday 17 February, 4 - 6pm
Place: Meow Café, 9 Edward Street, Wellington City

28 January 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Afternoon with Jane' by Ashleigh Young

Afternoon with Jane

Being a friend, Jane said, ‘You’re
the whole package!’
No one had ever
called me a package
before. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m a package,
of sorts.’ Or I hoped to be one,
one day – bundled together, on
my way.

Jane said, ‘Don’t be silly,’ and was beautiful
in the high-backed chair, wearing her enormous black skirt
and crinkly leather boots (like dead balloons, but beautiful
on her particular feet), a thick clot of hematite
beaded round her neck, and her blown-glass hair

in a plait.
It is possible to stare and stare at Jane
who is beautiful in such a way
that one never grows bored
but some do grow sad, in her company.
I stared, and felt myself go

sad – there would be no surprises –
as my resolve opened,
dispatched itself in pieces.
‘Stop,’ Jane said, ‘stop writing
your lists and go out and do
something. Ask out Nose Boy – ask him his name.
Go diving.’

‘It’s hopeless,’ I said, and echoed
‘It’s hopeless,’ because that is the nature
of hopelessness; echoing itself, bending in on itself
through an infinity of selves, like a room
full of mirrors: every surface
mounting another to breed millions more.

‘It is not,’ Jane said, ‘It is not,’ because that is the nature
of hope, she said: it refracts
hopelessness, and fills you –
as a mailroom, piled high with mail –
with many more hopes, all waiting to be posted
into the present tense: it's

a room fat with letters
many wrongly addressed but all destined
to travel –
she said this, my friend Jane,
her explanation gorgeously wrought
but ultimately unwrappable;
she narrowed her cut-glass eyes
as if she thought she could see
the names and addresses
of all the mail bundled in me.

Ashleigh Young's debut poetry collection, Magnificent Moon, was published late last year by VUP. She grew up in Te Kuiti, and has not long been back in Wellington after a couple of years living in London, where she worked as an editor at the Institute of Ismaili Studies. Her poetry and essays have been published all around the place, and she won the 2009 Adam Foundation Prise for her essay manuscript Can You Tolerate This. She blogs at eyelashroaming.com. For more about her, there are a couple of fabulous interviews online at The Pantographic Punch and Three Islands Magazine.

For my first Tuesday Poem of 2013 I wanted to share something from Magnificent Moon, which I finished reading over the Christmas break. I'd been sneaking a poem here and a poem there, but when I had the time I just devoured the rest in the space of an afternoon. And then I was a bit sorry to have finished it, because the poems had been such lovely companions. (I also found that the poems sent me spinning in my own poetic directions - I wrote three or four poems - or drafts of poems anyway - the afternoon I finished this book). Never mind, there are many re-readings to come. What makes this book and these poems so charming an appealing is its voice - lively, contemporary, quirky, funny and just when you're disarmed, it'll turn out to be really incisive and meaningful as well.

I chose to share 'Afternoon with Jane' because, as well as being my favourite poem in the collection (and I guess because it's my favourite poem in the collection), it epitomises those qualities. It starts off really chatty and specific, with someone called Jane, who I have no doubt is an actual friend of the poet (though whether that’s true or not really doesn’t matter, it feels true). Quite possibly this poem begins with a conversation they actually had (again, not that important), but it spins so beautifully off in little eddies, to finally it follows its extended postal metaphor, which begins with the common phrase 'You're the whole package', so far that we end up in a surreal image of hope (and the poet) as mailroom full of mail. It's a gorgeous blend of very specific with universal, or perhaps rather specific leading to universal. I find the images of hopelessness as 'bending in on itself/through an infinity of selves, like a room/full of mirrors', and of the nature of hope: 'it refracts/hopelessness, and fills you -/like a mailroom, piling high with mail' exquisite and quite haunting. I also love how it's full of little questions: Why does looking at Jane sometimes make people sad? Why is the narrator feeling hopeless? And who is Nose Boy? (Thanks to Tim Upperton for reminding me of the importance of that question.) There's so much in this poem - minimalist it isn't, and I love it for that.

I hope you'll check out more of Ashleigh's work, if you haven't already. And you can check out a whole new bunch of Tuesday Poems from the hub blog over here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

27 January 2013

Happy new year, and stuff

Happy new year everyone! I hope you're all having a good 2013 so far. I think I am.

I had a lovely Christmas break, and I did manage to write the average of one poem a day I said I was going to try to do in my last post. My rules were that they didn't have to be long and they didn't have to be good, which is just as well. I haven't reread any of them yet, but I know some of them are very short and I'm sure many of them won't be very good. But it felt good to write them, and to have written them (which seem to me to be slightly different things).

I was also very heartened that when I read over some poems and notes and fragments I'd written for a poetry project I'd started a couple of years ago, I found that there was some salvageable stuff in there, and in fact some things I love. I think it can definitely form the basis of my next 'thing', so yay!

The thing I should be working on right at this very moment is The Baker's Thumbprint, the new poetry collection from Paula Green, which I'm very proud to be publishing with Seraph Press this year. The other book I have scheduled is The Rope Walk by Maria McMillan. I wrote a post about them over on the Seraph Press site this week. I hope you'll go and have a read: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2013/01/1.html.

I've also just signed Seraph Press up to Twitter, so if you're on Twitter, it would be lovely if you would follow it/us/me: https://twitter.com/SeraphPress.