24 March 2019

Poem of the Month for March - "On The One", from my new chapbook of music poems, "Big Hair Was Everywhere"

If not for that ship I’d have been Rod Temperton.
If not for emigration I’d have remained
In Cleethorpes, where I was born,
Worked in Grimsby for Ross Frozen Foods,
Played in dance bands in my spare time.

Learned to write songs. Joined Heatwave,
A funk band formed by a Vietnam War vet.
Written “Boogie Nights”, that impossibly
Inescapable hit of 1976. Watch that vid
And you’d see me off in the corner,
Playing keyboards and adding harmonies,
Immortalised in a scoop-neck ‘70s vest, singing
“Got to keep on dancing, keep on dancing…”

Been recruited by Quincy Jones, a man
With good ears, to write songs for Michael Jackson.
“Rock with You”, some other hits, and then
The big one: “Thriller”. Everything: words, music,
Even that cheesy spoken-word bit that Vincent Price
Perfected on just his second take.

I’d have coasted along after that,
Staying cheerfully obscure, the unknown
Local boy made good in Hollywood
Till the cosmic actuary’s dice came up snake eyes.

I could have been you, Rod, if we hadn’t left,
If I’d had the slightest glimmering of musical ability.
Could have worked in that fish factory till it went bust,
ironed my funky vests, played in a covers band
And waited for that big break to come:
A ghost Tim, strutting the streets of Grimsby,
Suit sharp, still funky, always on the one.

Credit note: "On the One" appears in my new poetry chapbook Big Hair Was Everywhere: music poems, Number 34 in the ESAW mini series, published by Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop (Paekarariki, 2019), ISBN 978-1-86942-163-0. It is previously unpublished, and was written for inclusion in the chapbook. Tim says: Music was important to my parents, and it's important to me - many different genres of music, despite the fact I can't play a note other than Middle C. My new chapbook Big Hair Was Everywhere brings together my recent poems about music into one neat little A6 package - available from me for $5! Chase me up for a copy at forthcoming poetry readings.

26 February 2019

Poem of the Month for February: "Fire", by Tim Jones

It's time to restart "Poem of the Month" for 2019. I've chosen a newish one of my own to start with. I've just had a chapbook published that has some of my happier, chirpier poems of recent times - and I'll tell you more about that soon.

But this isn't one of those poems. I didn't know about Extinction Rebellion when I wrote it, but now that I do, I'm dedicating it to them and their work.


Fire crawls a sigil up the flagpoles of the world,
erupts in updraft and swirl. Cars torch
like eucalypts, like houses. We seek out
the lowlands, retreat to floodplains, but fire

snaps at the edges, each hectare of letterbox
and ornamental shrub an open invitation. Go
lower, go deeper: crawl to the level of worms,
cowering from the circling threats above.

Every season now is fire season, prodigies
of heat extending tendrils into winter’s
vanishing comfort and hurt, sacrificing
spring’s new growth at blackened birth.

Our infrastructure flakes off like dead skin,
like burning cladding so carelessly applied
when the air was kinder, built to standards
designed for a more forgiving world.

Money still has meaning. There are enclaves,
protections available only to the super-rich,
illusions of safety and permanence. With
enough cash in hand you can relocate

to sheltered valleys, islands buffered
by the slower-warming sea, the greening remnants
of the worlds of ice – twin Goldilocks zones,
two thin rings of life receding polewards.

Or depart the surface world entirely, descend
to the cool of caves and abandoned tunnels
for a life of hydroponic food, recollected pleasures,
imitation picture windows set against blank rock,

gaze averted from the fire that burns above. Flame
swirls the sky, converting atmosphere from oxygen
to soot. The long spiral of lightning and accident
that sped us from campfires to mastery,

our history of combustion, now rains ashes
on our heads. This was always our endpoint,
foreshadowed when some hominid, transfixed,
reached out to grasp the embers of a forest fire.

30 January 2019

The Pegasus Poetry Series 2019, Starting Friday 8 February: What A Lineup!

Therese Lloyd and Pegasus Books have organised a wonderful series of poetry readings in Wellington, spanning the whole year.

The readings are on Friday nights at Pegasus Books in the Left Bank off Cuba Mall, starting at 6.30pm.

Just look at the lineup below!

Here are the contact details for Pegasus Books, from their website which includes a map:

Pegasus Books
Shop 204 Left Bank Cuba Mall
PO Box 27335 Marion Square
Te Aro
Wellington 6011
New Zealand
Email: pegasusbooksnz [at] gmail.com
Telephone: (+64) 04-384-4733

I'm very pleased that Therese has included me in the third reading in this series, on May the 3rd, with Sam Duckor-Jones, Chris Price, and Chris Tse. I'll be reading from my latest collection, New Sea Land (Mākaro Press, 2016), and all being well, I'll also have a new chapbook at the reading, Big Hair Was Everywhere.

The Pegasus Poetry Series 2019

Feb 8 Airini Beautrais Maria McMillan, essa ranapiri, Harry Ricketts

March 22 Janis Freegard, Harvey Molloy, Claire Orchard, Magnolia Wilson

May 3 Sam Duckor-Jones, Tim Jones, Chris Price, Chris Tse

June 14 Jo Emeney, Siobhan Harvey, Tracey Slaughter, Ashleigh Young

July 26 Anahera Gildea, Helen Lehndorf, Frankie Samuel, Michael Steven

Optional National Poetry Day Reading (August 23) tbc

Sep 6 Jenny Bornholdt, Lynn Jenner, Anne Kennedy, Greg O’Brien

Oct 18 AJ Anderson-O'Connor, Jane Arthur, Carolyn DeCarlo, Mary McCallum

Nov 29 Amy Brown, Helen Heath, Hannah Mettner, Jackson Nieuwland

In other news, in addition to my Twitter, I now have the beginnings of a presence on Instagram:

And, saving the best till last, this may finally be the year I move off Blogger! Though, in that regard, I haven't moved much further than lento to adagio.

30 November 2018

Poem of the Month - November: "Kikoi for sleeping in" by Mary McCallum

With the year nearly over we hitched
north, took a leaky tent, two kikoi
for swimming and for sleeping in,
a kilt pin for protection. Budget of
three dollars a day. Sandra and me.
We climbed the zigzag to be early
at the station, hips out, thumbs
out, first ride to Raumati, and each
ride after taking us further north. We
took turns up front but not the sheep
truck, both of us crammed in there
next to the driver, rigid with the stink
of animal fear. She drew the line,
no more sheep trucks. So it was squads
of station wagons packed to the roof,
‘Shove over, kids. Let the girls in.’
Gritty seats. Sticky legs. Cortinas
with dark windows, soft men with bad
jokes. The kind photographer who
drove us to Gisborne, took our photo
in a field, introduced us to a famous
poet. The hippies who dropped us
at Nambassa, where it rained on the
clothed and unclothed and I got sick,
and Sandra, mud-slick, slid down
a whole bank on her small efficient feet.
Then there was that ute and a side trip
to the satellite dish at Warkworth—
the dish as big as a house, no one in sight,
ute refusing to go. ‘Get on the roof, for
heaven’s sake, jump-start it.’ His voice
whistly, thin with irritation, those
too-light eyes elsewhere. Knowing
nothing—nothing—we climbed up, sat
on our hands on the hot roof, back
to back, legs down past windows, feet
on rims. And we stood and sat and
stood and sat, made it rock like he said,
the satellite dish a blank moon. Fields
and roads blank, too, not a soul out.
And oh, it didn’t fire. And oh, I didn’t
guess. Shiny with sweat, finger to lips,
Sandra leaned down, peered in, eyes
wide, mouthed something. Gestured—
wanker. With one breath we yowled
under that grey dish-moon, leapt
to the ground, blazing, ‘Take us back
to the highway, you prick!’ (The kilt
pin, where was it? Still pinned to my
shorts.) The ute started first turn of the
key. Back at the road we bailed—packs,
tent, kilt pin, kikoi waving like flags—
took off south, incandescent with our
sense of right, a torrent of women
wronged. That’s not the whole
story but it’s the gist. I’m talking
about two trips, both up north, both
on our wits. I packed the kilt pin, we
unfurled the kikoi to wrap around
us when we swam and, dried, to use
as sheets each night. Sandra talked
of Kenya while we fell to sleep. We
took it in turns lying under the leak.

Credit note: "Kikoi for sleeping in" by Mary McCallum is reproduced by permission of the author and publisher from Mary's collection XYZ of Happiness (Mākaro Press, 2018). For more information and to buy copies of XYZ of Happiness, go to https://makaropress.co.nz/submarine-books-2/xyz-of-happiness-by-mary-mccallum/. The book is available from the website and all good bookstores for the RRP of $25.

Tim says: XYZ of Happiness is a collection I read recently with a great deal of pleasure and admiration. While the nominal theme is 'happiness', there are a whole range of emotions and experiences in play, as the wonderful poem above shows. This is much longer than my usual "Poem of the Month" picks, but "Kikoi for sleeping in" is so good I couldn't resist. Thank you for the opportunity to post this poem, Mary!

21 October 2018

Book launch on 5 November in Wellington: Saradha Koirala's new poetry collection "Photos of the Sky"

I'm very flattered that Saradha Koirala has asked me to launch her third poetry collection Photos of the Sky in Wellington on Monday 5 November. Here are the details of the launch. You're invited!

What: Wellington launch of Photos of the Sky by Saradha Koirala, published by The Cuba Press.
When: Monday 5 November 2018, 5.30-7.30pm
Where: The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon, Wellington

I've followed and posted about Saradha's career as a poet and novelist. Her work ticks all the boxes for me: skill, thought, and heart.

Saradha describes Photos of the Sky as follows on her website:

The collection starts with a declaration; ends in realisation. In between is a journey of reaching across the Tasman, shifting to a new home, reaching a place of disquiet and starting again. The full spectrum of emotions brings with it rain, sweat, tears, wildflowers and the promise of snow.

I'm also very happy to support The Cuba Press - a new Wellington press which is really making moves in a range of genres. They are open for submissions until 1 December - check out their submission guidelines.

With Saradha's permission, here is her poem "Confession, confessed". This serves as an excellent introduction to Photos of the Sky. I hope you can make it to the launch!

Confession, confessed

I’ve been the secret and the secret-keeper
the one from whom the secret is kept.

I’ve been a curiosity of connections that don’t concern me
the cause and effect of all that is curious.

I’ve been right and I’ve been wronged
I’ve been righteously wrong.

I’ve been a cut-out shape where I used to be seen
and I too have cut fleshy shapes from my life.

I’ve been the problem and the solution
the floating object of insomnia, rage

a presence off limits
that has in turn been there for me.

I’ve been the reason and I’ve been the excuse.
I’ve been falsely accused, rightly refused.

I’ve been the obsession
the obsessed.

I had an alibi.
I am the reason you needed an alibi.

03 October 2018

Poem of the Month - October: "Into our room", by Trish Harris

Into our room
clanking and rattling
spinning and whirling
sliding and wheeling
come trolleys
       and patients.

Hospitals run
on wheels.

Credit note: This untitled poem by Trish Harris is reproduced by permission of the author from her collection My wide white bed (Landing Press, 2017). For more information and to buy copies of My wide white bed, go to https://landingpress.wordpress.com/upcoming-titles/my-wide-white-bed/ . Books are available from the website and all good bookstores for $22.

Tim says: I would have enjoyed and been moved by the poems in My wide white bed at any time, but it was an especially poignant reading experience for me this year after both my father and I had stints in hospital during 2017 - his, unfortunately, terminal.

My Dad spent the last two weeks of his life in Hutt Hospital, which is the same hospital that provides the closely observed backdrop of Trish's poems. So I can say from personal experience that what Trish Harris describes in this poem, and the confusing mixture of the personal and the impersonal one experiences as a hospital patient or even as a the visitor of a hospital patient, rings very true to life.

19 September 2018

Book Review: Keith Westwater, "No One Home"

Keith Westwater, No One Home (Mākaro Press, Wellington, 2018), RRP $25.00

Reviewed by Tim Jones

"No One Home" is exactly what it says on the cover: "a boyhood memoir in letters and poems". But though this blurb is correct, the book is so much more. It's both a moving story of a childhood marred by cruelty and neglect and a very interesting and effective formal experiment in how to construct a memoir through a variety of poetic forms.

To me, a word is worth a thousand pictures. When it comes to a new book of poetry, I tend to take a quick look at the cover, think "that looks nice", and head straight for the bio, the intro, and the poems. But this time round, I paid attention to the form of the book first. Between the boyhood photo on the front cover and the title poem reproduced on the back, there are reproductions of hand-written letters between family members, newspaper clippings, hand-drawn maps and diagrams, family photos, official letters, poems, prose poems, haibun, short non-fiction narratives - and more.

The great thing is that it all fits together so well to tell a story of a young boy's upbringing and effective abandonment in the wastelands of mid-20th-century New Zealand. That narrative ends with the young boy's entry into the Army, and is followed by a brief coda of poems looking back. Keith Westwater's two previous collections are as focused outwards as inwards, but do tell a lot of the story that followed his entry into - and in many ways, rescue by - Army life.

Even better, the words live up to the concept. Such a variety of forms could cause the book to spiral out of control, but the author does a well-controlled job of marrying the words to the form, and conveying the pain of separation and loss, the cruelty of neglect, and the despair of hopes abruptly dashed. "Learning to ride", with its crushing final line, is a fine example of how Keith Westwater conveys this:

... When I came a cropper
skinned my arms or knees 
you painted them orange
set me up for another go 
until I was able to wobble solo
up and down life’s street. 
If only that were so.

It's hard to convey the full flavour of this book in an extract: it deserves to be read in full, and I recommend that you do so.