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Well, the Alice Spider book from Anomalous Press is fast becoming a reality. You may have met Alice before, but this will be the most Alice there’s ever been in one place. This is how she will look:
The stunning artwork on the cover is by Kristen Necessary.
There is one last hurdle. The lovely people at Anomalous Press are making six chapbooks altogether (small collections of poetry, of up to 40 pages) as a labour of love and have launched a Kickstarter campaign to get the funds together for printing. They need $US5,000. If you would like to support them – and receive books, postcards and other goodies in return (this is a pre-order type deal rather than a charity drive) – here’s where you can pledge the amount you would like to pledge and a description of what you will receive. Yes, I’ve already put my money where my mouth is, and huge thanks to everyone else who is supporting the campaign.
The Kickstarter link shows all the chapbooks being published and they look great!
Safe at Home
Night, and there is nothing outside my bedroom window
No red corrugated iron shed, by day ringing with the sound of Dad’s tools
No aviary of zebra finches peeping into the kitchen window below
No fairy flowers on the fuchsia, no posies on the hydrangea
No washing line to swing from, kicking the top of Dad’s birthday kowhai
No swing of thick grey pipes from the council tip, carrying me high enough to reach the wash-house roof
No square of lawn piled high with leftover wood, sometimes a princess’s castle, sometimes a pirate ship
No outside toilet populated by whirling dervish daddy-long-legses
No hole in the side fence where I slip past the leathery taupata to visit Jeannie, who feeds me chocolate cup cakes and Robinson’s lime cordial when Mum is in hospital
No hill where the Governor-General lives surrounded by pine trees; where a Bad Thing happened to a lady so we are forbidden to play in the spicy darkness with the cushioned floor; where the policemen check up on you if you do
It is night so there is nothing outside my bedroom window.
Except, of course, for passing spaceships flashing their comforting red and green lights.
Welcome to the first Tuesday poem of 2013! This week’s poem is from the recently launched collection ‘My Family and Other Strangers’ by Laurice Gilbert. Laurice says:
“The poem is based on a memory I have of a childhood night when I couldn’t sleep and I got up and played with my paper dolls (I’d have been about 7 or 8). In those days there wasn’t much light pollution, and it was very dark outside. I saw the flashing lights off in the distance just before Mum came in and told me to go back to bed.”
I enjoy the way this poem evokes childhood memories and preoccupations, and I especially like the comforting spaceships.
Laurice Gilbert is President of the New Zealand Poetry Society, and has had poems published in many journals and anthologies such as Island (Australia), The Book of Ten (UK), Shot Glass Journal and Fib Review. ‘My Family and Other Strangers’, Laurice’s first collection, is available from: http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/mf%2526os As well as reflecting on childhood, family and parenting, Laurice’s collection includes a section on Vincent van Gogh.
Where do you think you’re going?
Your smile has many teeth.
Who do you think I look like?
He wondered if he would ever make it home.
How could you do that to me?
I hide my frown in my drink, but no-one notices.
What month were you born?
The sun is hot and my skin sighs.
Why did she wave to him?
The smudge of fingerprints on glass.
What’s your favourite type of weather?
The shadows on the ceiling look like owls’ eyes.
What kind of animal do you like best?
Blue stars twinkle in the vase.
Are we nearly there yet?
I am in love with someone, but I do not know what will happen.
An hour passed,
but which way?
‘Which Way?’ is a group poem written by Sarah, Jen and Mark from one of the writing groups I belong to. Usually in this group we write fiction or non-fiction, but this month, we decided to try something different. The exercise was based on one I did with Bill Manhire when he stood in for Greg O’Brien once, in a poetry workshop I attended. The idea is for each member of the group to write a couple of questions and a couple of statements on separate pieces of paper, after which the questions and answers are matched at random. I stuffed up the order a bit when I was assembling our poem, which is why it ends in a question. But I think that works.
Exercises like this can be a great way to get the ideas flowing. By juxtaposing things which weren’t originally intended to be together, you can find some unexpected connections and tangents to follow.
(People familiar with Bill Manhire’s poetry may notice that the horse in the photograph is naked.)
Next Monday (23rd July 12:15pm), I will be in fine poetic company, reading at Te Papa in a curtain-raiser for National Poetry Day. (OK, the moon won’t be rising in the night sky, but I liked the photo and it was in the public domain). The other poets are Hera Lindsay Bird, Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, Rob Hack, Dinah Hawken, Anna Jackson, Helen Lehndorf, Kate McKinstry, Bill Manhire, Harvey Molloy, Marty Smith, Ranui Taiapa and Tim Upperton, and we will be reading our Best New Zealand Poems from the 2011 online collection.
The event has previously been advertised as being in the marae at Te Papa, but please note there has a venue change and it will instead be held in the Telstra Clear Centre at Te Papa: go to Level 3, turn left out of the lift and walk over the bridge. Hope to see you there! This part of the IIML’s “Writers on Monday” series, which features many other fine lunchtime events.
Friday 27th, National Poetry Day, will see many other events around the country – NZ Booksellers has a list of what’s on.
Have you ever used the spare buttons
that come with clothes? Do you save
the safety pins from dry cleaning?
Have you ever used them to hold
your trousers together? Did you use –
a stout chrome pin, or dainty gold?
Do you think your computer is talking
when it gurgles or whirrs? Which would
you rescue, the family pet or your computer?
In foreign cities, how many knobs or handles
have you turned the wrong way?
Do you believe you can do anything?
How do you feel when someone imitates you –
annoyed or flattered? Do you feel guilty
when you imitate someone else?
Could you recite all your usernames
and passwords? Have you ever thought
of them as litter? How often do you choose
‘the name of your first family pet’
as a security question? Will you vanish
if you can’t remember your PIN? Could you
describe a colour without reference
to other colours? Do you panic when faced
with unfamiliar taps? How do you react to cords
that have lost their appliances?
Have you ever tossed an orphaned cord?
How do you deal with complicated devices
with missing manuals? Should you know
everything? If you don’t, does that mean
you’re old? Are you afraid of what’s
underground? How do you feel
when old bottles surface in a garden?
Old rubber balls?
Today’s Tuesday Poem is by Mary Macpherson, a Wellington photographer, poet and communications professional. Mary has just released a stunning new book of photographs, called “Old New World” (Lopdell House Gallery, 2012), which explores the changing face of small town New Zealand. Inside, you’ll find a town clock, a painted tiger, war memorials and an old telephone box, alongside motel chalets and beach subdivisions. As well as posting Mary’s poem, Litter, which was recently published in Hue and Cry, I am very pleased to be interviewing Mary about her book.
Congratulations on making such a beautiful work of art. You’ve had many exhibitions over the years – I remember seeing your “Signs of Texas” exhibition at the Mary Newton Gallery in Wellington, as well as a series involving plastic sharks and lace fabric, and another series of vividly abundant patches of wild flowers and weeds that featured in Landfall. Is “Old New World” a departure from your previous work?
The At Sea series, which featured the shark and lace, were scenarios that I constructed and photographed. That’s a different approach to the documentary style that I used to express the ideas of Old New World.
But all the work I do, whether it’s of constructed images or the ‘real’ world, is exploring ideas and concepts.
Old New World, relates most directly to a series called Urban Landscapes which was exhibited in at City Gallery Wellington in 1987 and again in 2006 with the Signs of Texas work at the Mary Newton Gallery. In Urban Landscapes I was excited about photographing everyday reality with formal precision, to bring out the beauty and strangeness of the vernacular. (A few images from this series are in the BNZ and Te Papa collections).
Old New World is probably a deeper work where I’m exploring a piece of social change that happened during my lifetime, and looking at the way New Zealand is shaping and representing itself.
Did you set out with a theme in mind that you wanted to explore, or did the theme(s) emerge as the book progressed?
The work began in an organic exploratory way. Because of my childhood and teenage holidays in a small Maniototo town in the 50s and 60s, I have a particular memory of the way small towns were in that era, and the society of the time. I also have strong visual and physical memories of the intimate human scale underneath a huge blue sky.
A few years ago I noticed the small places in the Wairarapa were changing – becoming much more branded and conscious of themselves as destinations. Because it affected some sense of myself (childhood memories are particularly potent), I picked up my camera and started photographing in the main streets and back streets. Having done one place, I thought I should check the next place up the line, and the next….
Because I was really interested in the images that were coming back, I decided to do a substantial body of work that covered representative places all over New Zealand. I thought a lot about how to represent the places I was photographing.
I was never going to have intimate knowledge of the hundreds of places I visited, but what I could do was to portray the main trends and possible futures of small towns that I saw. I see the book as an overall fictional small town made up these multiple narratives.
I also become very interested in the way these places were representing themselves and New Zealand history – in murals, advertisements, statues and artworks. I wanted to record these and show how they related to their surroundings.
Old New World” could be viewed as a road trip collection. Does it represent several long summers on the road?
The work was made over seven years, whenever I had time and money to be on the road – not necessarily in the summer. In between times I printed and edited work, and thought about what I was doing.
Small town New Zealand and rural New Zealand both feature strongly in this collection – the Bay of Plenty town of Te Teko, Balfour in Southland – what attracts you to out-of-the-way places?
I went to places that were slightly below the radar, rather than places that were officially sanctioned as cute, or eccentric. I didn’t want to make a clichéd or stereotyped view of New Zealand. I hoped the view that emerged would be of someone who was visitor to a place, looking intently, and bringing back things that were of this country, without it being forced.
Later in the work I went to places that have been changed by extreme development or prosperity, like Queenstown or Mount Maunganui. By then I was ready make photographs that incorporated this knowledge, but still had sincerity at their heart.
Do you drive along until something catches your eye, or do you set out with an idea in mind?
It was really a combination of those approaches. As the project progressed and I become more conscious of the direction I was heading, I did develop lists of things I wanted to include and went looking for them.
But I had to be wary of that approach too. Trying to photograph (or write) with the rational ‘I should do this’ mind, can lead to over-determined and not very interesting results. So I also tried to stay open to just walking down the street and being struck by wonder at something – being drawn along by the content and language of what was happening around me. Some of the most interesting images were made this way.
One of my (many) favourite photographs in the book is of “The Soap Factory – Home of Egmont Soaps” with its differently sized windows and carefully painted words in a range of typefaces. Do you have a personal favourite?
For the project I took over 2,000 images and selected 62 of them for the book and 45 for the exhibition. So I guess I feel they’ve all passed the criteria for selection.
Perhaps the best way to talk about it is in terms of the aesthetics and themes of the work.
One thing I’ve always been interested in, in my photography is finding ways to get a sense of how people perceive their world. In Old New World this surfaces in the photographs I’ve made of statues, murals and public artworks – I was very interested in how people were representing regional and national history and regional identity. When photographing this type of iconography I wanted to place it in its surroundings – to show the ideal and how it sat in ‘real world’.
One photograph which is quite extreme is the image from a truck stop in Canterbury, where the DB advertisement featuring a pink-singleted shearer appears to have arranged reality around itself – to the point where every colour, and even the vegetation, matches the advertisement. The shearer (who looks strangely like Prince Charles) appears to be about to cut off the top of a real tree in front of him. I enjoy the complexity and strangeness of the image. (It’s also in the Te Papa collection).
You’re also a poet – co-author of “Millionaire’s Shortbread” and author of “The Inland Eye”, Pemmican Press. Is there a relationship between your photography and your poetry, or are they two quite separate arts?
I do practise them as separate streams of work and don’t put them together in a literal way. But I think that because photography and images are such a strong part of my life it seeps into some of my writing – I’ve written poems based on the box of slides my mother left our family, written about the complexity of light and quite a lot about journeys.
If words enter the visual sphere, I like the visual to clearly be the driver and I still seem to like to work that stems from the pop culture era. I respond to an Ed Ruscha, Richard Prince type of sensibility. Lately I’ve been interested in a multi-media book of photographs, documents, postcards and signs, called Redheaded Peckerwood by Christian Patterson. It’s a creation that addresses a killing spree by two teenagers in the States in the 1950s.
Where can people see your photographs and where can they buy a copy of the book?
The photographs are currently showing at Lopdell House Gallery in Titirangi, Auckland, until 5 August. Lopdell House will then tour the work around regional art galleries.
The book is available at independent bookshops nationally (e.g. Unity Books, the University stores, Wheelers, Page and Blackmore etc), and Paper Pluses in Hamilton and Porirua. On the web it can be ordered from Lopdell House Gallery http://www.lopdell.org.nz/ .
Prints are available from Photospace Gallery in Wellington. http://www.photospace.co.nz/marymac_pages/marymac_01.htm
Mary’s blog is at http://marymacphoto.wordpress.com/
It’s Flash Fiction Friday in New Zealand this week (22 June), so the Tuesday poets are getting a bit flash. There are a number of events around the country, and in Auckland there will be a prize-giving event in the Auckland Central City Library (Lorne Street, in the Whare Wānanga, Level 2, at 5-7 pm) where the national flash fiction competition winners will be announced and you can enjoy readings by guests Siobhan Harvey, Murray Edmonds, Vivienne Plumb, David Lyndon Brown, Leanne Radojkovich, Katharine Derrick, Penny Somerville and others. Wellingtonians are meeting at the Library bar in Courtenay Place at 6pm – I’m planning to be there.
Here’s a particularly short piece of flash fiction I wrote a while ago – the aim of this one was to write a story in exactly 100 words (excluding the title). You can read more at the Tuesday poem site from midnight tonight.
My neighbour spies on me. I’ve seen his Roman blinds twitching. He doesn’t realise I know.
I try to make his life more interesting, rising at strange hours to meditate on the roof. Some days I practise the flute in a ball gown.
I built a tree house in the back garden so he could watch me carrying things up the ladder: fifty metres of tinsel, a papier-mâché crab.
I like to think of him taking notes, trying puzzle it all out, wondering if he should tell someone.
I hope I make him happy. I think I’m all he has.
You love the roses – so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) was born in Warwickshire in England in 1819 and died in 1880. She was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, well know as the author of seven novels (including The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner and Middlemarch) but less well known for her poetry. She was also an editor and translator.
Her personal life was scandalous for the time. She had a twenty year relationship with George Henry Lewes, who was in an open marriage with another woman, and she later married a man twenty years her junior. The marriage lasted only a few months before her death.
This is the third year I’ve looked at how many female New Zealand poets have had books published in New Zealand compared with the number of male poets. And for three years in a row, men have outnumbered women. Here’s a little table with the number of books. The percentages at the bottom are the proportion of poetry books by women over the three year period compared with poetry books by men.
|Year||Number of books by female poets||Number of books by male poets||Number of joint books||Total books for the year|
So, of every ten books, about 4 are by women and 6 by men. (The joint publication was Alistair and Meg Campbell’s excellent book of love poems). Here’s the link to last year’s post.
I wondered if I’d see any difference if I looked at the number of pages of published poetry by gender. (This excludes journals and magazines; it’s just books.) There’s not much difference, at least not for 2010. It works out at 42% of poetry pages written by women; 58% by men.
Thanks to the Journal of Commonwealth Literature for the lists of published poetry books.
Does it matter? Well I rather think it does. I expect a nation’s literature to reflect the diversity of its population and a forty/sixty split isn’t quite cutting it. I suspect the ethnicity stats wouldn’t stack up either, but I don’t know enough about the published poets to know how they would identify themselves. Another project, another time.
Possible reasons for the lack of gender balance:
Men are writing more poetry? (seems unlikely)
Men are more likely to submit their work for publication?
Editors are more inclined to publish male poets?
There’s a historical factor skewing the figures, with older established poets more likely to be male (I’m thinking folk like J K Baxter here, as well as living poets).
Who knows? In the meantime, for more excellent poetry by people of a variety of genders and nationalities, have a look at the Tuesday Poem site where a jointly written global birthday poem is unfolding as we speak!
The Dog-headed Girl, by Janis Freegard
(after a Lucy Casson sculpture)
The dog-headed girl
goes to the beach for a swim. She splashes about in the
salty water barking her joy. Woof! says the dog-headed
girl. Woof, woof! She dog-paddles out to meet the waves.
If you threw her a stick, she would fetch it for you. When
she emerges from the water, she shakes herself frenetically,
flinging droplets across the sand until she’s half-dry.
The dog-headed girl wears no shoes.
The dog-headed girl has a red dog.
The dog-headed girl plays the ukulele.
The dog-headed girl
goes to the bookshop to find a book she might like to read
(one that’s not too dog-eared). She roams up and down the
shelves trying to sniff out one that she’ll enjoy. Finally she
settles on a novel by Banana Yoshimoto. It does not smell
The dog-headed girl chases seagulls.
The dog-headed girl does not like cats.
The dog-headed girl sometimes gets fleas.
The dog-headed girl
buys a hot-dog and chips from the takeaway bar on the
corner. Her mouth waters when the shopkeeper hands her
the takeaway parcel wrapped in yellow paper. The dog-
headed girl wolfs it all down as fast as she can. She grins a
jowly grin: it’s a good life being a bitch.
This was originally published in JAAM in 2002, and later reprinted in Viola Beadleton’s Compendium. (I’ve made one or two small changes since). Lucy Casson is a UK artist who had work in a show at the Dowse in Lower Hutt in 2002 (“Reclaimed”, about making art out of rubbish). One of her sculptures was of a female figure with the head of a red dog, who was walking a red dog. I still have the poster on my wall.
More Tuesday Poems here.