Friday 23 March 2018

Laine Moger's Review in Stuff [22/3/18]

Poetry alive and in progress: Poetry NZ Yearbook 2018 published

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 is officially launched at an event in Devonport, with special guest Alistair Paterson.

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 is officially launched at an event in Devonport, with special guest Alistair Paterson. [photos: Laine Moger]

A collection of new poetry has been metaphorically launched into the "literary waters" of New Zealand for the 52nd year in a row.

Distinguished poet and Massey creative writing teacher Bryan Walpert officially declared the Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018 launched, at an event at Auckland's Devonport Library on March 20.

Walpert noted the word "launch" was a metaphor, used first by Mark Twain in 1870 and, as poets deal in metaphor, it was fitting to begin such an event with such a word.

Some of the poetry readings elicited a few giggles from the crowd.

Some of the poetry readings elicited a few giggles from the crowd.

The theme of the book was "traditions", and the diversity of poems in it had Walpert describing it as "moving through an interesting and vivacious cocktail party".

Devonport Library launches Poetry New Zealand Yearbook with a slam
Online poetry collection reflects ethnic diversity of New Zealand

The book is filled with image, connotation, figure and form - a variety of poetry, he said.

Alistair Paterson's presence at the event was somewhat of a treat for the poets, many of whom owe him their first ...

Alistair Paterson's presence at the event was somewhat of a treat for the poets, many of whom owe him their first published poem.

"The life of poetry in progress," he said of the book.

Alistair Paterson was the featured poet of the book, and esteemed guest at the launch. For many poets reading at the event, it was Paterson who gave them their first published poem.

He was the previous editor before Massey University Press, for 20 years from 1994 to 2014, and one of his poems was published in the very first publication in 1951.

Poet Devon Webb was asked to return to the event to deliver her slam poetry, a hit at last year's launch.

Poet Devon Webb was asked to return to the event to deliver her slam poetry, a hit at last year's launch.

But Paterson said he was humbled by the poets and flattered Ross had published his poetry in the book.

"I am still learning my craft and learning it from the poets of today," Paterson said.

The privilege was not given by the poet, rather it was the reader who privileges the poet, he added.

Editor Jack Ross said he has been a fan of Richard von Sturmer for as long as he has been interested in poetry.

Editor Jack Ross said he has been a fan of Richard von Sturmer for as long as he has been interested in poetry.

Paterson said the poetry in this book was as good as any one could find overseas in US or Britain.

Editor Jack Ross said the variety and diversity of form in the book was a way to "gauge the temperature" of poetry.

Issue 52 of the yearbook features 130 new poems by 87 poets. The poetry yearbook has been continuously published since 1951.

The yearbook is now available for purchase.

The yearbook is now available for purchase.

Callum Gentleman read two of his poems.

Callum Gentleman read two of his poems.

A selection of poets, including the three winners of the Poetry New Zealand competition, were invited to read at the event in celebration of their craft.

The winners for 2018: 
  • 1st Prize: Fardowsa Mohamed
  • 2nd Prize: Semira Davis
  • 3rd Prize: Henry Ludbrook

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Images from the Poetry NZ Yearbook 2018 Launch

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook in Spain (8/3/18)
[photo: Lilian Pallares Campo]

The Crowd at Devonport Public Library (20/3/18)
[photo: Bronwyn Lloyd]

Order of Events:

Paul Beachman (Devonport Library Associates)

Jack Ross (Editor: Poetry New Zealand)

Publisher (Massey University Press):
Nicola Legat

Launch speech:
Bryan Walpert

Featured Poet:
Alistair Paterson

PNZ Poetry Prize winners:
Fardowsa Mohamed - 1st prize for ‘Us,’ (p.126)
[sent her apologies, but her poem is available online here]
Semira Davis - 2nd prize for 'Hiding' (p.89)
Henry Ludbrook - 3rd prize for 'The Bar Girl' (p. 117)
[sent his apologies]

Other poets from the issue:
Iain Britton
Johanna Emeney
Callum Gentleman
Elizabeth Morton
Richard von Sturmer
Devon Webb
Albert Wendt [had to send his apologies, alas]

Jack reads out Henry Ludbrook's poem

Crowd shot
[photo: Nicola Legat]

Paul Beachman [photo: BL]

Nicola Legat [photo: BL]

Bryan Walpert [photo: BL]

Alistair Paterson [photo: BL]

Alistair Paterson [photo: NL]

Semira Davis [photo: BL]

Iain Britton [photo: BL]

Jo Emeney [photo: BL]

Jo Emeney [photo: NL]

Callum Gentleman [photo: BL]

Callum Gentleman [photo: NL]

Liz Morton [photo: BL]

Richard von Sturmer [photo: BL]

Devon Webb [photo: BL]

Jack Ross [photo: BL]

Poetry New Zealand Yearbook in Spain II (19/3/18)
[photo: Charles Olsen]

Monday 19 March 2018

10 Questions with Jack Ross [19/3/18]

photograph: Mary Paul

10 Questions with Jack Ross
Editor of Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018

This interview appeared on the Massey University Press website on 19th March 2018:

  1. Now that it’s published, what pleases you most about New Zealand Poetry Yearbook 2018?

  2. I’m happy with the feature: the poems, interview and essay about the poet we’ve selected, Alistair Paterson. It’s the newer voices we’ve been able to include which please me most, though. I love it that people of all ages, from all walks of life, feel able simply to send in poems, and that so much of what they send is of such high quality. We really do seem to be a nation of poets. The evidence speaks for itself on that one, I think.

  3. How many submissions were there?

  4. Well, it’s an interesting question. 116 poets made it to the long list, each having sent 5 or 6 poems. At least twice that many didn’t make it to the list, so I’d say that I must have read at least 1500 poems to end up with the present count of 90 (not including the 21 we’ve included by our featured poet).

  5. And how did you sift through them?

  6. I read through them in blocks. Any I felt the slightest doubt about I set aside for further reflection. Then I compiled a long file with all the ones which seemed possible, and gradually whittled it down until I was left with only those I feel absolutely sure of. This time the longlist went down from 200 to 100 pages in the course of this rather protracted process. I like to see them all more than once, in different moods. As for what makes one striking and another not, I try to be as open as possible to the potential of each individual poem and poet.

  7. This is edition #52. No small number. What’s the spirit behind the Yearbook that you endeavour to defend and maintain as editor?

  8. I feel that there’s definitely a need for a journal such as this. It’s attracted many supporters over the years, but it’s the fact that it’s still here, and still publishing new and innovative work that (I hope) makes it a vital part of our culture rather than a mere museum piece.

  9. Can Poetry New Zealand’s heritage sometimes feel a burden?

  10. I guess there’s a certain eccentricity about this particular magazine’s history that makes it amount to more of a useful set of precedents than an oppressive burden of expectations. Its long-term editors – Louis Johnson, Frank McKay, Alistair Paterson – have mostly been contrarians, fighting to retrieve suppressed voices, critical of the received versions of official Kiwi culture. That's the heritage I’m trying to uphold.

  11. Your featured poet is Alistair Paterson, longtime Poetry New Zealand editor and your predecessor. What is distinctive about his work?

  12. As a critic, Alistair has always been a fierce defender of experimental and innovative poetics. As a writer, however, he seems to me to have worked his way through to a strange, pellucid gentleness. To be still writing poems of such quality in your late eighties is an unusual achievement, but the fact that we’ve been able to include so comprehensive an interview, and that he’s just this year published a memoir, Passant, shows an admirable dedication to the craft of writing in all its facets, I think.

  13. As with previous editions, the Yearbook's reviews of other volumes of poetry are very comprehensive. Why is this important?

  14. You can’t have a lively literary field without a robust critical culture. I don’t mean ‘critical’ in a denigratory sense, but in terms of contextualisation and explanation. Even exceptionally strong work often needs exposition before it can have its full effect on the reader. New Zealand is full of writers and literary experts, and the quality of the reviewing here is high – when it’s allowed to be. Poetry New Zealand aspires to be a place where informed opinion is welcome: not something to be dumbed down or apologised for.

  15. Tell us about the poetry competition winners announced in this edition.

  16. I just happened to glance at one of the many emailed submissions that had come in one day, in the process of shifting them to the correct folder, caught sight of a couple of lines, and started to read. What I found there was so haunting and powerful that I knew I’d hit on a winner. The poem was ‘Us’, by Fardowsa Mohamed. Its effect on me grows the more I think about it. It is, on the one hand, about the experience of being an immigrant to New Zealand, but on the other also about the personal implications of carrying such a weight of expectation on your shoulders.

    Semira Davis (2014)

    The second poem, ‘Hiding’ by Semira Davis, is short and to the point. It’s funny and painful at the same time. It’s a coming-out poem and a poem of farewell. It will speak to younger readers, certainly, but also to the rest of us. ‘To live your life is not so easy as to cross a field,’ as Pasternak put it in Doctor Zhivago. Life is hard enough without the need to hide who you truly are from those you should be closest to.

    Edouard Manet: Le Bar des Folies-bergere (1881)

    The third poem, Henry Ludbrook's ‘The Bar Girl’, speaks to a kind of male longing which is, I think, very real, however absurd it may seem to those on the outside. Fantasy can be all that keeps us going sometimes, and this poem pulls out all the stops to convey just how it can feel to be lonely and full of impossible desires.

  17. Last year we discussed the rude good health of poetry publishing in New Zealand. Has that continued to be the case in the last 12 months?

  18. Yes, I think so. Certainly there’s been no shortage of wonderful books appearing over the past year in New Zealand. I recently attended the 3rd biannual Poetry Conference & Festival in Auckland, and it seemed a pretty lively gathering to me. To be sure, the field is certainly changing: the Phantom Billstickers’ programme of poetry posters, the poetry slams and live poetry events — not to mention online videos — are certainly complicating the ways in which we see poetry. Long-term, I think that can’t fail to be a good thing. I don’t think poetry publishing, or print journals, are going to become obsolete any time soon. They may have to expand the range and nature of their multimedia engagement, though.

  19. What are you reading at the moment?

  20. Well, I’m reading the revised, complete translation of Solzhenitsyn’s August 1914. I liked the novel when it first came out in the 1970s, but there’s far more of it to pore over now, and it’s also become clearer just how it fits into The Red Wheel, his massive history of the Russian Revolution and its origins.

    I’m also trying to read Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet. There are numerous overlapping English translations of this work, no two of which seem to see it the same way. Partly this is because he died young, without having the chance to finish, let alone revise it, but also due to his habit of creating distinct authorial alter egos — or heteronyms, as he called them — to create quite distinct bodies of work. At least two heteronyms appear to have been at work on the Book of Disquiet, at different times, so it’s very hard to know just who to attribute it to, which also makes a difference to how you interpret it.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Radio NZ: Jesse Mulligan 1-4 [14/3/18]

2018 New Zealand Poetry Yearbook

From Jesse Mulligan, 1–4pm, 1:31 pm today

The upcoming 2018 Poetry Yearbook includes 130 new poems from 87 poets. It has a skew for 2018 towards younger writers including those who are still in their teens. It also features the 2018 Poetry Prize Winner's work. That was won by an Otago University Medical student, Fardowsa Mohamed. The Yearbook's editor Jack Ross talks to Jesse about the quality of this year's book and the talent of the country's younger poets.

Jack Ross

Short Story Club

Every Thursday after 3pm Jesse and a guest discuss a New Zealand short story, and read feedback from listeners.

On Thursday 15th March we will discuss the poem Us, by Fardowsa Mohamed.

We brought in an overseas expert to discuss her poem. Poet, editor and fan of New Zealand, Matthew Zapruder.

He has an excellent book called Why Poetry, which is a great place to start for somebody wanting to enjoy poetry more.

Fardowsa Mohamed

for my sisters


Mother, you did not expect to find yourself
in this forest of strange trees.
This ground does not taste
of the iron your tongue knew.
in the velvet of the night we heard you sob
in the room next door, our ears pressed to the peeling paper.
we locked fingers and prayed. someone next door
saw braided-head girls in a circle
praying to a peculiar god
and snapped their curtains shut.


Everyone congratulates me
on the scholarship. Your parents
who have suffered can finally exhale

said the white man at the ceremony.
But I think I hate this degree.
I want to do good and make a difference
but I have no idea
how to be in this foreign land.


the world broke & crumbled today
— there you go — trying to tape her back
into a perfect sphere,
trying to spit water
on the raging fire.


know that this earth is your body. your words are
the Pacific Ocean tides that wash & purify
your legs are the Mountains that anchor, your heart —
the Land that gives. every where you stand is your home.
Earth is the African Woman
who gave birth to the first Man.


We were watching late night Al Jazeera, shaking our heads,
when uncle called. A pregnant cousin we have never met has died.
The TV breaks to a Red Cross appeal.
You hold me on the sinking couch
as we mourn those whom we never knew.