News and enthusiasms
Claudia Jardine, one of the young poets who is included in the forthcoming AUPNewPoets7 (coming out in August), has just published a brilliant version/response to Catullus 51, his lovely translation of Sappho 31, in Starling magazine. It's called "Stop Reading Catullus 51" but I won't.
I think in triangles and write in circles, but squares take me somewhere else altogether.
Summer reading nests
It took me a long time to get over the obsolescence of my nice Nokia phone which was only for sending texts and converted any other attempt at a message into squares, and for a long time I have lived without a phone at all which has a lot to be said for it. But I have finally come round to using the old i-phone I inherited from Simon which takes photos, and so I have been photographing my summer reading nests, such as this fine nest by a waterhole in a Rangataua creek I like to swim in. My summer reading: Helen Garner, Yellow Notebook, edited diary entries which together present a strangely fragmentary refracted sort of an autobiography; Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom, one of the eeriest, most disturbing short stories I have ever read, by Sylvia Plath; Animal Languages, by Eva Meijer, a wonderful compilation of stories about animal communication which takes all kinds of forms but always involves relationship; Helen Garner's collected stories; Sarah Paretsky's Shell Game; The Crying Book by Heather Christle, a kind of memoir in the form of tiny essays, free-floating paragraphs, adding up, also, to a kind of extended meditation on, if not quite a philosophy of, crying; Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokurczuk; and Leslie Jamison's lovely long-form essays in her latest collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn. (A list of all the reading I can remember from 2019 can be read here and I'll have to start a 2020 list here.)
Turbine Kapohau Reading Room
I love this account by Elaine Webster in the new Turbine Kapohau of the shame of writing - "Perhaps the writing of it was the part that matters, not the part where others read it. Now I reject it, almost hate it, feel disgusted, compromised. What does the writing ask for? What does it do? Maybe worst of all, what does it make me?" She is quite brilliant too on the size of handbags and the hinterland of moments. I always love the Turbine Kapohau Reading Room. As Ash Davida Jane says in her own reading journal, " it’s an intimate and personal thing, somebody’s readings of and memories of the poems by a writer they love." And I was already liking reading about Louise Gluck when Mel Ansell's reading journal just got better: "I can’t be especially bothered with Glück today," she writes, "but I’ve got Anna Jackson’s Pasture andFlock here." The poet you read when you can't be especially bothered with Gluck!
The long-awaited How to Live by Helen Rickerby has now been launched, by me! This dazzling collection includes "Notes on the Unsilent Woman" along with poems about forks and houses, Frankenstein's monster and George Eliot, working on the boundaries of poetry and the essay. You can read the launch speech here. And I love this interview with Helen, with brilliant interviewer Mark Amery: sample quotes: Mark, about reading How to Live: "I felt like running back and reading Middlemarch!" Helen (elsewhere in the interview): "Frankenstein is a nuts book."
AUP New Poets 5 launches a new series I am editing of the Auckland University Press New Poets collections, with poetry by Carolyn DeCarlo, Sophie van Waardenberg and Rebecca Hawkes. In this book you will find poems about transformation, beauty and hunger, childhood and coming of age, limpets, mangroves, avocados, the sickly liquid from a smashed and dribbly apple, a stale pie, an eviscerated bird, trilobites, giants, romance and desire... AUP New Poets 5 is reviewed by Paula Green here and an interview with Carolyn DeCarlo is presented here on Pip Adam's marvellous Better off Read podcast (another enthusiasm of mine!).
Translation is an ongoing enthusiasm. Simon Perris in his book on Euripides tries out an idea I find quite ravishing: “Dionysus is a god of identity transformation…Is it too fanciful, then, to see him as a god of translation, adaptation, and other modes of textual transformation?” I have been returning to translation myself with the need for a literal Catullus translation first leading me to work out my own, then to try working it into an English version of a Sapphic metre, then wondering how it would work if I figured Catullus as a waitress, then wondering how this would work as a sonnet, then, not wanting to write sonnets as such, playing around with the layout until, look, it is like stars in a starry sky! I am working my way through a series of YA sonnets taking off from the waitress ones, and then converting them all into starry sonnets spread out on the page, but also working my way through some literal translations, in and out of metres, of the poems Clodia writes back to. Writing in galliambics was fun.
Greg Kan's Under Glass and Sugar Magnolia Wilson's Because a Woman's Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean
Two gorgeous collections of poetry I had the honour of launching. The launch speeches can be read here.
Helen Rickerby, about whom I've been enthusiastic for many reasons for many years, has, over the last few years, been writing the most extraordinary poetry bordering on the essay, taking on philosophy, thinking through the biggest questions. You can now read her brilliant, unsilent poem "The Unsilent Woman" on Turbine.
I have discovered the website of Tinderbox author Megan Dunn, and at the moment am particularly loving her essay on the Submerging Artist. "Your art is of its time, but it’s also of your time. We will all submerge" - oh, dark consolation!
The Bedmaking Competition was launched alongside the novella Swim by Avi Duckor-Jones at Unity Books, Wellington, 13 September, and TimeOut books, Mt Eden, Auckland, 15 September. The launch speeches can be read here.
I am currently enthusing about the poetry of Sam Duckor-Jones, whose poem "Sensitive Boys" is in a very wonderful free poetry pamphlet the excellent Victoria University Press celebrated Poetry Day with! Here is a typical picture of me in tiny-faced admiration of Sam Duckor-Jones reading his poetry (photo credit Verb Festival).
Clodia in Oxford
Thank you to Professor Stephen Harrison for organising a reading “I, Clodia,” at the Iannou Centre, Oxford, for a terrific audience of classical scholars.
The film Faces, Places (Visages, Villages) by Agnes Varda
For months I have been talking about this film which I loved every minute of, and which set off in me a great yearning to make enormous, public, collaborative art, or to enlarge poetry into some sort of street art event...Shall we?
You can read my poems in French, translated by Luc Arnault, here!
I love the reading lists of Poetry Magazine, and the February list includes my favourite February reads - Elif Batuman's The Idiot, Elisa Gabbert's The Self Unstable, Alan Hollinghurst's The Sparsholt Affair, and The Shepherd's Life by James Rebank, along with the reading lists of other New Zealand poets.
Chris Tse is a poet I've admired for a long time and his new book, He's So Masc, launched alongside Pasture and Flock at the Wellington Writers Festival, is beautiful, brave and brilliant, and Paula Green has posted a wonderful interview with him about the book on Poetry Shelf.
"Viewless Wings" by Mark Ford
This is currently (since November 2016) my favourite poem in the world, second perhaps only to the Keats nightingale ode from which it takes flight. You can read it in the LRB or here, and in Mark Ford's collection Enter, Fleeing (Faber and Faber)
Keely O'Shannessy designed the beautiful cover of Pasture and Flock and has very generously allowed us to use the art to make this website beautiful too. Her own website offers an extraordinary showcase of brilliant books and gorgeously inventive design.
Maria McMillan who designed this website is a brilliant poet and Information Architect and very much a current enthusiasm.
These terrific poems by Charlie Clark. I especially love the third poem down, "Pseudo-Martyr."
“Some say cavalry, some say footsoldiers are the most / beautiful, I say oh, cavalry, I know / what you mean!"