For Later: Stephen Burt, visiting poet

Cover for BelmontPermissible and not mad to add two poetry books by Stephen Burt, The Poem is You and Belmont, to the For Later Shelf this week because I’m giddying up to see them at a WORD event at Scorpio Books on Thursday 26th January at 6pm.

Good poet (at least I think so after attending a reading last year – perhaps I’ll know how to tell for sure after this event), Harvard Professor of Poetry and an engaging speaker, Burt will be in conversation with Fergus Barrowman from Victoria University Press.

I love poetry events – people are passionate about it so the questions tend to be on the intense side, and even better can spin out into wildly inappropriate statements of opinion. Somehow opinions on poetry are so much more interesting than opinions on non-fiction, which mostly centre on how much more the ‘questioner’ knows than the author.

“A lively discussion” is promised, but I’m hoping for a bit more than that.

What do young love and literary magazines have in common?

Why would one read a literary magazine in the time when novels are still the hottest form on the scene? Because reading a literary magazine is like being young and ready to fall in love every day fresh. You can pick up the read you fancy, and if you realize you made a wrong judgement, you can very easily let it go, because – guess what? There is another one waiting for you when you turn the page. No hard feelings, no strings attached!

Takahē is a New Zealand literary magazine published in Christchurch and has been on the scene since 1989. Its core repertoire consists of short stories, poetry and art by New Zealand writers and artists, and often extends to essays, interviews and book reviews. The magazine is a good starting point for emerging literary talents and offers a place for their first public appearance along with established writers.

Takahē is published twice a year in a print form (in April and December) and as an online issue in August.

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Takahē, April’s issue 2016 – the literary bounty

One of the prevailing themes of April 2016’s issue is motherhood, or the biological and relational obstacles preventing motherhood. Lucy-Jane Walsh (These Things Happen) brings a fresh insight into a life of a young woman who cannot have a child but forms an unusual friendship with someone else’s (at the same time it cleverly captures the nuances of the craziness and obsessiveness of modern parenthood). Suvi Mahonen in Little White Crescent dives into details of medical checks and scans of a pregnant future mother, while much more darker side of deficient pregnancy comes to life in Meagan France’s Grace.

The other topic that floats up to the surface is – of course – love, or various forms of love and its cousins (David Hill’s On Special, Melanie Dixon’s The Cottage, Sarah Penwarden’s Mirror Ball, Rupa Maitra’s Eve).

The second topic that recurs is writing (The Celtic Gift by Juliana Feaver and Kate Mahoney’s Flight from New York).

As far as the dating goes, I would definitely revisit Nathan Bennett’s Washed Up (only Birdling’s Flat can inspire such weird yet beautiful story about the relationship you don’t come across very often), Melanie Dixon’s The Cottage (with a witty perspective on a rather sad ending of a romantic weekend), Michael Botur’s This is God’s House (complex and unusual relationship narrated in dynamic slang and persvasive style) and Bev Wood’s Ode to Gallipoli (lyrical meditation on peace with an elusive narrator).

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Takahe offers a good balance of poetry, short stories, essays and book reviews.

What can offer a better shelter to love than poetry? In this issue it comes hand in hand with its ancient partner – death. Under the mindful study of surrounding the pain of passing reveals itself (The Hospice Room by Robert McLean, Rachel Smith’s Light and Shade) and so does singularity of existence through proximity of death (Sarah Penwarden’s poems). How presence and absence are both immanent to love is evoked by Julie Barry in You are now not. Iain Britton’s verses from Calling go further and transcend into cyclical time: binding with ancestors in order to stand, singing in order to weave people together, emerge past and present.

Love can be destructive as well. Venus fails to pursue her artistic calling because she makes the same mistake again – i.e. falls in love (Jenny Powell’s Marlene Dietrich in Gore for the Gold Guitar Awards). The answer to her problem is hiding in sea snails – as Kirstie McKinnon points out they will teach us about letting go.

More existential orientated poems will explain why it is always good to keep your passport on you – or begin at the end (Frieda Paz in Road, map, direction, begin), otherwise you might end up stuck on the bridge  – like a subject in Julie Barry’s Preposition of place. Liang Yujing offers a new metaphor for life – heavy school bags on young pupils and big black mouth of a primary school devouring them. Can we escape? No, as Mary Cresswell proves in her poems, adequately pairing themes of artistic and existential crisis (or blocks) with old troubadour’s poetry forms. But as Julie Barry points out in her Grapefruit, the weight of humanity is too much for one and only branch we live on anyway. And this is not all, I am leaving other joyful jewels for yourself to discover!

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One of Lisa Walker’s jewellery pieces. She is displaying her work at the Christchurch Art Gallery until April 2017.

 

Takahē regularly offers essays on art and latest book reviews. April’s issue will be of a special interest to Christchurch readers, as it brings to focus Lisa Walker’s revolutionary jewellery (written by curator Felicity Milburn), which can also be seen as an exhibition in Christchurch Art Gallery – Te Puna o Waiwhetu until the 2nd April 2017.

Being a wonderful relic means I still thrive every Saturday morning when I browse through the good old printed paper while sipping the first morning coffee. These days, I am paring this ritual with an early evening one which includes wine and Takahē. Both combinations are perfect and correspond well to each other. I urge you to try them both.

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Poetry Ōtautahi – National Poetry Day, Friday 26 August 2016

National Poetry Day is on this Friday 26 August. Poetry Day events in Canterbury are listed on the 2016 Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day website:

Events on National Poetry Day – Friday 26 August

National Poetry Day Celebration Readings 12.30pm at Scorpio Bookshop in Hereford Street. Winners of the Hagley Institute 2016 Poetry Day competition will be announced by judge James Norcliffe and there will be readings from Frankie McMillan, Bernadette Hall, Christina Starchurski, Teoti Jardine, Jeni Curtis, Marisa Cappetta, Rose Collins and the competition winners. Part of  WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival has a strong programme of poetry including the following sessions on Poetry Day itself:

Poetry in the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre

More poetry events

Thursday 25 August

Speaking proud Thursday 25 August 6pm. Event to raise funds to continue the work of Q-topia, an organisation that supports LGBTQIA+ Youth in Canterbury.

New Regent Street Pop up Festival  Thursday 25 August, 6pm – this WORD Christchurch event includes Lady Poets at Shop Eight – a badass, subversive poetry show like no other! Lady Poets celebrates the voices and stories of women and genderqueer poets and performers. MC: Audrey Baldwin. and Catalyst at The Last Word Catalyst is a literary arts journal committed to experimental and non-traditional creative forms: song lyrics, script/screenplay excerpts, spoken word, rap, visual poetry, and more.

Saturday 27 August

Poetry events at WORD:

Hear my voice Christchurch performers Sophie Rea, Daisy Speaks and Tusiata Avia are current National Poetry Slam champ Mohamed Hassan, former US National Poetry Slam champ Ken Arkind, fast talking PI Selina Tusitala Marsh and internationally renowned Canadian storyteller and writer Ivan E. Coyote. MCed by Ciarán Fox

Poetry at Parklands – the Poet within
2pm. Parklands Library draws on “the poet within”, within the Christchurch City Libraries that is. That’s right, many of our librarians are writers too. Instead of dispensing poetry books on the day after National Poetry Day, four of our librarian-poets will be reading their own work. The poets are Damien Taylor, Rob Lees, Dylan Kemp and Andrew Bell.

Sunday 28 August

More WORD poetry events including:

Poetry spots in Christchurch

Poetry nā Hinemoana Baker

Poetry nā Hinemoana Baker. Victoria Street, Christchurch. Flickr 013-07-30

Go down to The Terraces and see the poetry on the banks by Apirana Taylor. Wander further afield and see Ōtākaro to Victoria nā Hinemoana Baker at a mini-park at 108 Victoria Street. There are also poems on power poles on Victoria Street: Whakapapa by Ariana Tikao, and Victoria Street by Ben Brown. There are always fab poems about the town thanks to Phantom Poetry posters as provided by Phantom Billstickers.

Poems in your pocket

Why not put some poetry in your pocket? Download this year’s poems from the National Poetry Day website including one by WORD Christchurch guest Tusiata Avia.

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A WORD with Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire is one of New Zealand’s leading poets and writers. Bill is a mentor to New Zealand writers, founding the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. He was New Zealand Poet Laureate for 1997-99 and is the driving force behind several anthologies of New Zealand poetry,

Bill Manhire. Image supplied.
Bill Manhire. Image supplied.

Bill will be appearing at two events for this week’s WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers FestivalThe Perfect Short Story and The Power of Poetry.

Selected Poems (2012) showcases Bill’s latest contribution to poetry, while his connection with the Antarctic’s fragile and brutal nature is revisited in the fascinating collective Dispatches from Continent Seven (2016).

CoverThe Stories of Bill Manhire brings together The Stories from The New Land : A Picture Book (1990), South Pacific (1994) and Songs of My Life (1996), the choose-your-own-adventure novella The Brain of Katherine Mansfield (1988), and one of my favourites the memoir Under the Influence (2003); a charming memoir of growing up in pubs in the South Island.

An incredibly versatile writer, Bill has also contributed to a wonderful work for children, The Curioseum: a collection of writers’ impressions of Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, collaborated with artists, and has had his work put to music by Norman Meehan in Small Holes in the Silence.

Find more works by Bill Manhire in our collection.

Quick questions with Danyl Mclauchlan – WORD Christchurch

We are asking four quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival on from 24 to 28 August.

Danyl Mclauchlan is a biologist who  has written two novels, Unspeakable Secrets of the Aro Valley and Mysterious Mysteries of the Aro Valley.

Danyl Mclauchlan Image supplied
Danyl Mclauchlan. Image supplied.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I have only been to Christchurch once before in my life, way back when I was a teenage backpacker, and all I remember is getting lost looking for my hostel and standing on a street called ‘Barbados’ in the pitch dark and pouring rain, so maybe I will try and recreate that moment from my youth.

What do you think about libraries?

I find them enormously relaxing. Something about being surrounded by all those books. If I’m having a bad day I will sometimes go into the library at my university and stand in the shelves and recompose. A surprising number of people have this response to literary places, like libraries and bookshops and as libraries transition into the digital space I think they need to be aware of the important role that huge rooms filled with physical books play in the emotional lives of the public.

What would be your “desert island book”?

CoverI used to think this would be Proust, but then I read the first volume and hated it. I liked Middlemarch a lot, but can’t imagine finding the time to read it again in a non-desert island scenario, so I’ll pick that.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I have very soft earlobes. Softer than anyone else’s.

Danyl Mclauchlan appears at WORD at Tickled Fiction, Sun 28 Aug, 9.30am

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Poetry at Parklands: the Poet Within

2016 Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2016 hits New Zealand on Friday 26 August and the celebration unleashes the power of poetry all around our great nation with lots of events and poetry competitions.

Parklands Library draws on “the poet within”, within the Christchurch City Libraries that is. That’s right, many of our librarians are writers too. Instead of dispensing poetry books to customers, on Saturday 27 August 2016 at 2pm four of our librarian poets will be reading their own work.

Poetry

The poets:

Damien Taylor is a street poet who loves to retell his experiences from deprived small town aspirations to broken big smoke dreams. He likes to call himself Tīhore and wishes he was more Māori than he actually is.

Rob Lees is a born and bred Cantabrian and Goddess of the Knowledge Mountain, according to her husband. She says that her poetry is a reflection of her life experiences and is a way of keeping the voices in her head out!!

dYLAN kEMP is an artist of some renown. Not heaps, but some. He has published 3 books of poetry, all available from Christchurch City Libraries. He also paints, drums, dances like a wild man, and tickles his children.

Andrew M. Bell has published two books of poetry, Green Gecko Dreaming and Clawed Rains, and one book of short stories Aotearoa Sunrise (all available from Christchurch City Libraries). His work has been published and broadcast in Aotearoa, Australia, England, Israel and USA.
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Quick questions with Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh – WORD Christchurch

We are asking four quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival on from 24 to 28 August.  First up, it’s Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh, award-winning Auckland-based Pacific poet and scholar.  She recently performed for the Queen as the 2016 Commonwealth Poet.

Service at Westminster Abbey in the presence of HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, together with TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Henry of Wales and HRH Prince Andrew.
Service at Westminster Abbey in the presence of HM The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, together with TRH The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Henry of Wales and HRH Prince Andrew.  Image supplied.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

I look forward to jogging around the city to see resilience in action and get my feet earthed long the Avon River! Also, catching up with Festival participants, soaking up the creative energies of others, writing in my hotel room, enjoying the air.

What do you think about libraries?

I love libraries (and librarians – especially school ones because they are my key contact people when I visit schools to perform and run workshops) and I especially love the relatively recent development of turning them into active, brimming social spaces (we’ve got a cafe in the Auckland City library) with noisy and quiet areas!

CoverWhat would be your “desert island book”?

No island is a desert, there were always people there before us! Plus, I read buffet-style with commonly 5 on the go, so, at the moment my 5 must have’s are Eckhart Tolle’s Power of Now, Anne Rice’s The Witching Hour, Austin Kleon’s Black Out Writing journal, the latest Chimurenga journal (picked up in Cape Town – amaaazing!) and Cherie Barford’s most excellent poetry collection, Entangled Islands.

Share a surprising fact about yourself.

I got caught in an arm bar during this morning’s MMA sparring session and am filled with thoughts of revenge!

Dr Selina Tusitala Marsh appears at WORD in the following events:
Power of Poetry, Fri 26 Aug, 5pm
Hear My Voice, Sat 27 Aug, 5.30pm
Spirit House/Unity, Sun 28 Aug, 2pm

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Introducing Toitoi – your chance to get published

We have just subscribed to a fantastic magazine that is for Kiwi kids and by Kiwi kids. Toitoi is a journal for young writers and artists that gives Kiwi kids the chance to submit their own writing and pieces of art to be included in the journal.  There are 100 pages of original stories, poetry and artwork in every issue.  Check out these examples from Issue 3 this year:

Issue 3 Spread1
Issue 3, Toitoi, spread 1. (Image supplied)
Issue 3 Spread2
Issue 3, Toitoi, spread 2. (Image supplied)
Issue 3 Spread3
Issue 3, Toitoi, spread 3. (Image supplied)

It looks really fantastic and who wouldn’t want to see their story, poem or artwork published in a magazine! You can brag to all your friends and your family will be super proud of you. It’s a quarterly journal so that means that there four chances throughout the year for you to submit your writing and art and see it published in the magazine.

Grab a copy of Toitoi from the library now and check out some of the amazing stories, poems and artworks that kids from all over the country have submitted.

Anyone aged 5-13 years can submit a piece to Toitoi. To submit a piece all you have to do is go to the Toitoi website, click on ‘Submit’ at the top of the page and email your submission to the editors. The next deadline is 8 July so you’ve still got a few weeks to get your submission in. What are you waiting for?

A literary Matariki

Matariki, Aotearoa New Zealand New Year has arrived with the return of the star grouping of the same name, what is widely known as The Pleiades, a star cluster within the constellation of Taurus.

In some Māori traditions Matariki forms a pou or post along with Tautoru (Orion’s belt) and Takurua (Sirius). This is the post of Hine-nui-te-pō, the goddess of death, and symbolically marks the death of the old year.

The Matariki cluster, for whatever reason, has fired the imagination for millennia, appearing in poetry and stories since time immemorial. All around the world there are many traditions, legends, and stories based on this cluster of stars.

Matariki in Māori songs and poetry

The stars of Matariki make an appearance in a number of Māori songs and mōteatea (a traditional form of chant or sung poetry), in the latter it is often in a lament or remembrance of a loved one.

Such as this lament by Mere Reweti Taingunguru of Te Whanau-a-Apanui for her husband Te Whatu-a-Rangahau which opens with the lines –

Cover of Ngā MōteateaTērā Matariki huihui ana mai. / Ka ngaro rā, ē, te whetū kukume ata.

(Behold the Pleiades are clustered above. / Lost, alas, is the star that hauls forth the dawn.)

Or this one by Mihi-ki-te-kapua –

Tirohia atu nei ngā whetū, / Me ko Matariki e ārau ana; / He hōmai tau i ngā mahara / E kohi nei, whakarerea atu / Nā te roimata ka hua riringi / Tāheke ware kai aku kamo.

(I gaze up at the stars, / And the Pleiades are gathered together / Which gives rise to many thoughts / That well up within, and freely / Do the tears pour forth / And flow shamelessly from mine eyes.)

Wow. That’s almost got me a bit teary myself.

Then there’s this lament for Ngati Mutunga chiefs Te Whao and Tu-poki

Cover of Ngā mōteatea the songsKa ripa ki waho rā, e Atutahi koa, / Te whetū tārake o te rangi, / Ka kopi te kukume, / Ka hahae Matariki ē, / Puanga, Tautoru, /Nāna i kukume koutou ki te mate, ē.

(Away out yonder is Atutahi, / The star that shines apart in the heavens. / The noose was pulled taut / At the rising of Matariki, / In the company of Puanga and Tautoru. / It was thus you were all hauled down in death, alas.)

The presence or rise of Matariki is also used to indicate the time of year as in this action song of Ngati Rangiwewehi –

Mō te Matariki, e totope nei te hukarere, / Ngā taritari o Matariki.

(In the winter time, heralded now by snowstorms,  / And this cold weather of Matariki.)

Or this lament for Te Umukohukohu –

Ka puta Matariki ka rere Whānui. / Ko te tohu tēnā o te tau e!

(Matariki re-appears, Whānui starts its flight. / Being the sign of the [new] year!)

More recent examples include the song “Te Aroha” by Tuini Ngawai, written in 1960 which has the lines –

Horohia e Matariki / ki te Whenua / Te māra-matanga mo te motu e / Kia tipu he puawai honore / Mo te pani, mō te rawakore e / Mo te rawakore e

(Spread your light oh Matariki / On to Mother Earth / As a guiding light for this land / May the seed become an honoured bloom / for the poor, for the needy. / For the needy.)

The Pleiades in poetry around the world

These same stars, though called by other names have been referenced multiple times in poetry in other cultures too. In the 20th century a Japanese literary magazine mainly focused on poetry, was called “Subaru”, the Japanese name for the Pleaides/Matariki cluster.

In 16th century France there was a group of poets who called themselves “La Pleiade”, naming themselves after an even earlier group of poets from 3rd century BC Alexandria, the Alexandrian Pleiad. Another french group of poets based in Toulouse in the 14th century and made up of seven men and seven women also used the name to describe themselves.

Sappho, the greek poetess, thought to have been born around 630 BC, made at least one reference to The Pleaides in her “Midnight poem” –

Tonight I’ve watched / the moon and then / the Pleiades / go down / The night is now / half gone; youth / goes; I am / in bed alone

Industrious astronomers have used this description of the relative positions of the moon and the stars – making a guess at the rough year and place to determine which time of year the poem was written in.

The Pleiades also turn up in the poem “On the Beach at Night” by Walt Whitman

And nigh at hand, only a very little above,
Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.

Cover of John Milton's Paradise lostThere’s also an appearance in Book 7 of John Milton’s Paradise Lost

His longitude through Heaven’s high road; the gray
Dawn, and the Pleiades, before him danced,

And in “Locksley Hall” by Lord Tennyson

Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro’ the mellow shade,
Glitter like a swarm of fire-flies tangled in a silver braid.

There are also multiple references in the star cluster in the epic poetry of Homer, in The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Pleiades references in other literature

Cover of Ethan FromeOther literary associations include novels like Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome. Here Ethan describes the night sky to his cousin Mattie.

That’s Orion down yonder; the big fellow to the right is Aldebaran, and the bunch of little ones-like bees swarming-they’re the Pleiades…

In more recent times popular novelist Lucinda Riley has undertaken a series called The Seven Sisters with each book focusing on a different one of the seven sisters.

What’s your favourite mention of Matariki or the Pleiades in literature?

For more poetry about Matariki and the stars try –

Learn more about Matariki –

Frank Worsley – a local hero

It is just over a century since Frank Worsley, Ernest Shackleton and Tom Crean reached a whaling station on remote South Georgia following a daring 16 day voyage to alert the world to the loss of Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition‘s ship Endurance. Because of this journey the rest of the crew – stranded on Elephant Island – were all saved.

Worsley was born in Akaroa in 1872 and the New Zealand Antarctic Society has republished an epic poem about him ‘Worsley Enchanted‘ written by New Zealand-born poet Douglas Stewart and illustrated by Myra Walton. The poem takes readers through his experiences on the Endurance Expedition – which has become legendary – and reflects on his relationship with the rest of the crew.

Frank Worsley. Smythe, P :Photographs of Frank Worsley. Ref: 1/2-182002-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22778293
Frank Worsley. Smythe, P :Photographs of Frank Worsley. Ref: 1/2-182002-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22778293

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