Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Kelburn Park by Harry Ricketts

The grass shaggy already,
white lines partitioning the field
to other codes, enigmas.

The square is invisible.
A huddle of grey-backed gulls,
a hunch of slips and short legs.

The nets look deserted, but if you squint
there's Hamish just taking guard,
Tony sidling up to bowl.

posted with permission 

Harry Ricketts is so many things - English Professor and poet and anthologist and biographer and cricket lover. Born in England, a student at Oxford University, he moved to NZ via Hong Kong and teaches up at Victoria University which is within spitting distance of Kelburn Park.

I studied English Lit at Victoria University when Harry was young and blonde and carried his small children on his shoulders. Now one of them is a drummer for the Phoenix Foundation and Harry, as of this year I think, is a Professor.

Just Then (VUP 2012)  is his latest poetry book -- full of poems that are playful, fun, nostalgic -- about his family, poets he knows,  other friends, places, poems, paintings, cricket.

Here are some of the other poems from the collection: El Prado, Phoenix Foundation and Polonius:Old Poet - all, I am proud to say, posted on Tuesday Poem blogs. And here's another cricket poem by Harry on Mark Pirie's fabulous Tingling Catch blog.

This poem, ah, well it's very Harry Ricketts -- the lovely playfulness of 'codes, enigmas', the yummy mouthful of language in the huddle of gulls and the 'hunch of slips and short legs', then there's that thing he has for cricket -- and memory -- and then, for me, there's the way the poem evokes so wonderfully one part of my memory about my time at Victoria University. The shaggy grass, the gulls, the deserted feel - like Narnia, my memories of Vic are (in the nicest way) always winter.

After the post went up here this morning, Harry emailed me with the background to 'Kelburn Park':
In case it's of interest, I made up 'Kelburn Park' while walking back up to Vic from the Terrace and past Kelburn Park, after reviewing Bill Manhire's collection "The Victims of Lightning" on National Radio's Nine-to-Noon programme. My head was full of Bill's poems and winter.
Which seems perfectly apposite. Thanks so much Harry for the email and for the poem.

Now poetry readers, do head to the Tuesday Poem hub asap to read terrific Australian poet Sarah Rice.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not what Lloyd says, or the art of extraction

photo by Annie Hayward 
Against Lloyd Jones' advice to keep my novel close to my chest -- here is an extract from it. Fresh out of the Dropbox where I've popped it to share with my writing group. Why share it? I guess I'm excited to be back in the project - properly inside it -- and writing writing writing, not self-censoring and obsessively pruning and barely moving forward.

I've decided my style isn't pared back. It's busy and loud and full of cultural and contemporary references - especially, in this case, music and fashion. Different from The Blue -- so maybe it's just this book that's like that? The next will be different? Oh I don't know. But I spend too much time discussing these things with myself.

Must. Keep. Writing.

And I'm trying to follow Henry Miller's maxims which include this: 'Don't be nervous. Work calmly. joyously, recklessly ...' I like that last one particularly. I guess blogging an extract is a bit reckless.

Okay the extract from 'This Seagull Heart of Mine'  ... 

First of all, picture Jackson St, Petone, and the protagonist (who owns a second hand clothes shop on Jackson)  is looking for a particular tartan skirt, or rather she's looking for a person wearing a particular skirt  ...  the clothes shop Beauty is, she's decided, a good place to start. She's just spotted a woman on the street wearing tangerine (the colour) and both are walking into the shop....


She was ahead of me through the door into Beauty. Both of us billowed momentarily on the scented air: something rosy but chemical with an undertow of chrome polish, and that smell along with the shiny white minimalism of the walls and furnishings gave the impression of stepping into a mirror. The girl behind the counter was shiny and featureless, too, with bleached hair, no eyelashes, a white singlet. She was listening to Paramore on her laptop. She lifted her head from buffing her nails and watched us walk in.  

I didn’t know her name and I didn’t care; it wasn’t worth finding out even though we were in the same business and the same street. Any day now she would slide her skinny, bleached self through the door and onto a bus to go and work in a larger version of this shop somewhere in Lambton Quay. And from there where?                        

I scanned the shop. Tangerine was at the shoe table. The closest rack to me was cotton shirts, bright, crisp, chemical. Brights predominated – shades of purples and maroons. Black and grey tights. Loose tops. Nothing here had seams which ached from the movement of a body, or buttons hanging from thread pulled thin by fingers, or hems and cuffs which smiled at the secret and not-so-secret adjustments made to make them fit. ‘Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after’ – it was something Brian said cynically now and then about his colleagues. Yeats I think it was. It seemed to me that’s what people thought clothes shops offered them – a kind of perfection. A size not a shape. A look not a person. A way to smooth out the irregularities of the body. 

My shop offered that as much as the next one, but in a way that was less of a violation I suppose. They were not aloof, my clothes, and already well used to a body or three - bodies they brought with them. The short-armed woman from Naenae, the 80s freak from Wellington with the shoulder pads and the bouffant hair, the nervous girl from up the road who embroidered everything she owned with the tiniest stitches and seed pearls.                                                 

The assistant was standing now, as thin as a pencil, eyes heavier than the weight of her bones, moving so slowly around the large glass table I knew I had time to sprint to the skirts. 

From This Seagull Heart of Mine by Mary McCallum copyright 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Useful blogging tips

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Hotel Emergencies by Bill Manhire

I'm the hub editor this week - and I've chosen a chilling, thrilling recording of Bill Manhire reading Hotel Emergencies. Go here to hear... and find more wonderful poems in the sidebar chosen by Tuesday Poets.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Daughter

For F

How fraught this word with its 'gh' 
appearing to snag like a 'g' should
then at the last minute letting the air
through like the 
to the gate left open when she 
should be inside on her bed listening
to Axel Rose and doing her science
homework or
like a window left open for cigarette smoke –  
see! there's a 'g' right there doing what
a 'g' ought to – jagged little thing –
catching at the throat
like smoke does when you're not used to it,
in no time at all
our smooth babies chuckling
like eggs on the boil 
are snagging on all sorts of things
that ‘g’ getting in the way again when they
ought to 
surely, be able to find their way through
and around obstacles like water does,
but no, there they are: words
like prickles, like bruises and cuts,
more than we could never imagine, or,
worse, a ravaged interior –
that 'g' again of a different sort
jagged like a knife this time, like an 
fighting its way into the soil, like a breath taken
when breath is hard to take,
no, stand aside, we cannot go there
not on our own, not like this for we mothers
will always be new mothers on hard sheets 
babies at our breasts squeaky as silk
our bodies pouring forth
in a way that speaks of libation and sacrifice
which brings up that word at last:
But it’s no good. I can't
do anything with it, can’t foretell how
it will be for us or for them, but particularly for her.
All we can wish for is that this daughter
is safe in her bed, the one
with tie-dyed pillows and cinnamony sheets
and posters of Marilyn – or better
the one with the pink and orange satin
heart pillow and Little Mermaid book
and the door open a crack, just a crack,
so we can stand there and simply
adore her.                                    

By Mary McCallum 

And do check out the fabulous Tuesday Poem at the hub - by a UK poet this week - selected by Janis Freegard. And a raft of fab poems can be found in the TP sidebar too. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Margaret Mahy Nationwide Read a blast - could it be an annual event?

Posted this morning on Beattie's bookblog

blowing bubbles to Bubble Trouble outside Rona Gallery
 I am completely exhausted but thrilled to bits with our wonderful community event remembering a writing hero. Families packed into Eastbourne library to hear authors Jenny Hessell, Jill Harris, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Manny Garcia and me read our fave Margaret Mahy stories -- the children were transfixed -- adults too! One high point: the gathered children purring like a giant three-legged cat and another: when Manny read the first line of A Lion in the Meadow and a little boy jumped up excitedly and yelled 'I know this book!' But how many times did we 'ooh' a rhyme or 'ah' a fabulous word or grin at something marvellously ridiculous? 

There was an emotional moment too at the end when we stopped laughing and clapping and listening and acknowledged one of NZ's greatest writers ever. 
my prototype of the famous Fifi Colston chair 

Then we were off - a crocodile of kids in sports gear and parents with shopping following orange-bewigged librarian Sabine down sunshiny Rimu Street to Rona Gallery bookshop. There we stood in the sunshine blowing bubbles while Bubble Trouble was read out loud by Joanna Ponder and after that it was all on for Fifi Colston's Down the Back of the Chair egg carton treasure box chairs. We had so many takers we were quite overwhelmed, but somehow they all managed to make one, especially Yoshi with his chair painted orange in and out, and Sienna with her pink and blue chair and a huge blue splotch on her pink cardy (oh dear forgot about the aprons.) 

kids (and adults) making the Down the Back of the Chair
treasure boxes at Rona Gallery (me in the pink wig)
So lovely for the late finishers to have Fifi Colston Creative turn up and show them her yellow chair and lovely treasures inside .... 

Limping home in three-legged cat style, I opened up Facebook to find reports on Mahy readings flooding in from all over the country. Such colour and optimism and fun! There was Fifi Colston talking about reading to an enthusiastic group of littlies and their parents at Wellington Central library. She reported that while her group didn't make the famous treasure box chair, they went away well-armed to do so, and with handfuls of cut-out cats. Queenstown Library's Jane Bloomfield reported that Gillian Sullivan read her own copy of 'Lion in the Meadow' (signed by Margaret last year) and recounted stories of Margaret helping her as a young writer. Jane also said that the bubbles were a hit with young and old and the event created a whole bunch of new fans. 

Marlena Davis confirmed this with her post: 'My 13 month old and I had a wonderful time at Takapuna library. Thank you so much for organising this special way for people to celebrate a beloved author. RIP Margaret Mahy your legacy will live on in those of us who loved your stories and be continued as we share them with our children.'

The 'old fans' were definitely in evidence everywhere too -- with people of all ages reported at the gatherings. Here's one reader's comment on the Facebook page: 'I remember reading The Changeover in my teens at the local library. The exciting part is that given time, I can do that all over again:). Thank-you Margaret Mahy for making ME feel special. Te-Rau Huia Te Ngore-King 

display at Queenstown library
Clare Scott's report went like this: "Back from Papakura where a small and intitially bemused group (I'm good at scaring small children sometimes!) became an enthusiastic, interactive 'bubble brigade'. RIP Margaret - you would have loved the sharing of magical words throughout New Zealand today!" Auckland Central had fun too: 'Thank you Melinda Szymanik for being our extra-special author guest at the Central City Library, Auckland, Margaret Mahy storytime this morning! Thanks for being such a fun participant... and taking part in the singing and dancing!'
Hillcrest Pirate librarian Rebecca
and Nicola Daly 

Barbara Murison's morning at Cummings Park Library, Ngaio, was especially poignant. 'Linda Forbes (National Library Adviser) had found an old (very old) copy of the School Journal that prompted publication of the very first book - The Lion in the Meadow - when the journal was on display in the New York Public Library. It was a wonderful morning full of nostalgia and even if we ran out of time for making the Treasure Chair (thank you again Fifi) the library had most fortuitously prepared handout instruction sheets for the children to take home.'

Posted by Hillcrest library is a photo of Pirate Librarian Rebecca helping Nicola Daly read The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate. Sharon Holt's report of the event concluded: 'As Nicola read Margaret's description of the sea near the end of the story I was reminded of the amazing talent that we have lost. However, as one of the people wrote in our memorial book today "A great storyteller gone forever, but alive on our book shelves". ' So true. 

Dargaville library
Reports are still rolling on Facebook and elsewhere - no doubt we'll be hearing soon about the Auckland Town Hall event on at 2.30 pm. It was, I am sure, joyous. 

Thanks a thousand times over to the organisers of the Nationwide Read:Maria Gill and Johanna Knox - it was a brilliant idea, wonderfully executed. Could it be an annual event? Margaret Mahy Read Aloud Day - a day to remember a great writer and the joys of reading loud and having fun with books. Sounds good to me. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Please rush me by Janis Freegard

Janis Freegard is a Tuesday Poet who does crazy and wonderful things in the name of poetry. This is one of them. Her blog is here.
Do check out Tuesday Poem at the hub for a poem selected by US poet Eileen Moeller.