31 August 2009

The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories

I haven't quite got it in my hands yet, but there is a copy of the Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories, edited by Paula Morris and including my story "The New Neighbours" (first published in my recent collection Transported), on its way to me.

As Beattie's Book Blog reveals, the lineup of authors included is:

Barbara Anderson, Jo Randerson, Charlotte Grimshaw, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Tim Jones, Damien Wilkins, Alice Tawhai, Duncan Sarkies, Fiona Farrell, Emily Perkins, Owen Marshall, Eleanor Catton, Sue Orr, Fiona Kidman, Tracey Slaughter, C. K. Stead, William Brandt, Patricia Grace, Vincent O’Sullivan, Carl Nixon, Elizabeth Smither, Julian Novitz, Justin Eade, Kate Duignan, Sia Figiel, Sarah Laing, Anna Taylor, David Geary, Kirsty Gunn, Bernard Steeds, Witi Ihimaera.

It's a lineup that I'm very pleased to be a part of!

I am also pleased that Paula Morris chose "The New Neighbours", which is an out-and-out science fiction story, albeit with a New Zealand setting, for inclusion. It's another sign that science fiction is gaining a least a measure of acceptance in the wider New Zealand literary community, something which New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week should also encourage.

Here are the first few paragraphs of "The New Neighbours", to give you the flavour of the whole.

27 August 2009

Anomalous Appetites, Speculative Blogs, and a Very Good Cause

Anomalous Appetites

Shortly after the release of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand was announced, New Zealand poet and editor John Irvine got in touch to say that he had recently published an illustrated anthology of science fiction poetry, Anomalous Appetites. You can find out all about it on John's website.

I've now read Anomalous Appetites, and I found it a mixed bag (like any anthology), with some parts very much to my taste and others less so. I'm impressed by the range of poets included, with contributors from the US, the UK and the Philippines as well as New Zealand. The most immediately impressive thing about the anthology is the design: this collection is lavishly illustrated, and I especially liked those sections, such as the haiku by Greg Schwartz, in which the poems are fully integrated with the illustrations.

In addition, I particularly enjoyed the poetry of Maureen Irvine, John Irvine, Ken Head's "Imagining the Pandemia", Kristine Ong Muslim, and Charles Christian. Although the brief of the anthology is speculative poetry, most of it is horror poetry: there's plenty of vampirism and cannibalism doing the rounds. It was often the pieces that had at least a science fiction element, rather than being pure horror, that appealed to me most.

In any case, I think it's a really good sign to see not one but two speculative poetry anthologies being produced in New Zealand, and I wish John and his collaborators all the best with future ventures.

New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week: 14-20 September

In an effort to raise the profile of speculative fiction writers in New Zealand, the week of 14-20 September has been declared New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week. By happy coincidence, Helen Lowe and I are holding our writing event in Wellington, Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction, during that week - see the poster below. So I expect I will blog about this - but that will leave room for one other NZ speculative fiction post during the week. Any suggestions of what you'd like me to cover?

Poets for Princess Ashika: Love, Loss and the Sea

This is a fundraiser for the victims and relatives of the Princess Ashika Ferry Disaster in Tonga. I won't be able to attend, unfortunately, but if you're in the area, I recommend both the lineup of poets and the cause.

Featuring Glenn Colquhoun, Karlo Mila, Apirana Taylor, David Geary and the Paekakariki School Kapa Haka group.

Saturday 5 September, 2pm
UPDATE: The venue has been moved to the larger capacity Paekakariki Memorial Hall, The Parade (next to Campbell Park on the seafront).

Afternoon tea

Koha entry, and raffle
Contact: Helen Keivom 04 905 7178 or helen.keivom (at) kapiticoast.govt.nz

24 August 2009

Astropoetica: Mapping The Stars Through Poetry

In 2003, I came across a call for submissions for a new webzine, Astropoetica. Its mission statement was "Mapping The Stars Through Poetry", and editor Emily Gaskin had the excellent idea of launching it with a Constellations Issue: at least one poem for each of the 88 constellations recognised by the International Astronomical Union.

"That sounds like a good idea," I thought, and set about finding some Southern Hemisphere constellations that would by the overly-prosaic Abbe Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille - you can see the poems at the bottom of this post. Octans is the constellation which contains the South Celestial Pole.

Later, I had poems in a couple more issues, including two in the Solar System Issue - these two form part of the Mars sequence in All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens. But, not having written any suitable poems for a while, I was especially pleased that my poem Losing Weight was included in the latest issue.

I'm not the only New Zealand poet to be included in Astropoetica: Mary Cresswell has been published there several times, and Su Lynn Cheah had two poems, including a particular favourite of mine, Insects, in the Constellation Issue.

It isn't easy to keep a small-press magazine appearing so consistently, especially when you're paying the contributors. Emily Gaskin has done both poetry and astronomy a great service with Astropoetica, and if you are interested in either, I recommend it.

Three Constellation Poems

Antlia, the Air Pump

The good Abbé
had a telescope, and time
and a cloth ear
when it came to names

Abbé Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille
You'd think a name like that
would awaken a sense of rhythm
in the most prosaic of men

a sense that would guide his choices
as he looked up
from the Cape of Good Hope
at a southern sky crying out for names

But no. He wished to honour
Robert Boyle, great father of the Air Pump
Antlia Pneumatica and Machine Pneumatique
that's the name he lumped me with

Dogs, bulls, and virgins
wrapped in their antiquity
chased me from the north
with their mortifying laughter

Later someone had mercy
shortened me to Antlia
People now think
I'm named after ants or antlers

Squint and you can see me
crawling through the southern sky
keeping my head down
as air leaks from my broken heart

Horologium, the Clock

Clock, clock
Tick tock
In the southern sky
Counting down the lonely years
All are born to die

Clock, clock
Tick tock
Entropy remains
As your stars drift out of reach
Leaving only names

, the Octant

I was there when the Yamana
sailed south from Cape Horn
in their flimsy bark canoes
and found a world of ice

I was there when the Maori
dared the Southern Ocean
in twin totara logs
sailing from Te Waipounamu

There for Ross and de Gerlache
Bellingshausen and Borchgrevink

Nothing much to look at
Not shining like Polaris
But when they came to the South Pole
I was there

When Roald Amundsen
planted the flag of Norway
at his best guess at the Pole --
I was there

When Robert Falcon Scott
lay down for death to claim him
Somewhere high above the blizzard
I was there

There for Mawson and Shackleton
for Hillary and Byrd

Nothing much to look at
Not shining like Polaris
But when they came to the South Pole
I was there

Above the chattering of tourists
and the scientists' endeavours
Above the melting and the greening
I'll be there

When the sea level rises
and the ice turns into water
Or when a new ice age beckons
I'll be there

There for artist and astronomer
Protester and prospector

Nothing much to look at
Not shining like Polaris
But when they come to the South Pole
I'll be there

Antlia was included in All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens. Horologium and Octans have not been collected in book form.

18 August 2009

A Launch Becomes A Farewell: Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, 1925-2009

We set out to launch Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand on Monday night, and ended up farewelling a great New Zealand poet as well: Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, who died aged 84 on Monday.

Other obituarists have done a good job of describing Alistair Campbell's life and work. I did know know him personally, though I was lucky to hear him read twice, but his collection Kapiti: Selected Poems, 1947-71 is one of my very favourite books of New Zealand poetry, and remains an inspiration.

Of course, the Voyagers launch was not planned to be a commemoration of Alistair Campbell, but it turned out that our lineup of readers, and our lineup of poems, encompassed many connections with him, so that one series of readings served two ends.

Most of the readers read two poems from Voyagers: one of their own, and one by another Voyagers poet. The full lineup was:

Puri Alvarez: "Saturn's Rings" + Meg Campbell, "The End of the World"
Marilyn Duckworth: Fleur Adcock, "Last Song"
Chris Else: "Hypnogogia" + James Norcliffe, "the ascent"
Robin Fry: "Lift-off" + Peter Bland, "An Old Man and Science Fiction"
Niel Wright: Ruth Gilbert, "Still Centre"
Tim Jones: "Good Solid Work" + James Dignan, "Great Minds"
Rachel McAlpine: "Satellites" + Harvey McQueen, "Return"
Jane Matheson: "An Alien's Notes on first seeing a prunus-plum tree" + Simon Williamson, "Japan 2030"
Harvey Molloy: "Nanosphere" + Richard von Sturmer, from "Mill Pond Poems"
Michael O'Leary: "Nuclear Family" + Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, "Looking at Kapiti"
Mark Pirie: "Dan and his Amazing Cat" + Louis Johnson, "Love Among the Daleks"
Vivienne Plumb: "Signs of Activity"
Helen Rickerby: "Tabloid Headlines" + Tracie McBride, "Contact"
Mike Webber: "My Personal Universe" + David Eggleton, "60-Second Warning"

We heard poems by Alistair Campbell himself, by his first and second wives (Fleur Adcock and Meg Campbell), by his sister-in-law (Marilyn Duckworth), and, as Mike Webber revealed, by a descendant of Te Rauparaha, about whom Alistair wrote so often and so memorably. What's more, Nelson Wattie, Alistair Campbell's biographer, was also present, and came up after the readings to give a moving account of Alistair and his life.

It was a good feeling to be part of a launch that managed to be both a celebration of a new anthology, and a commemoration of a great poet's life and work.

16 August 2009

A Boost for Mid-Career Writers

This announcement comes from the weekly e-newsletter of the New Zealand Society of Authors, of which I'm a member. NZSA membership isn't cheap, but if you're a New Zealand and serious about your career as a writer, it is definitely worth considering. The weekly e-newsletter carries a lot of information I don't get from other sources - yes, not even from blogs or Twitter.

I think I am eligible for this award, and if so, I plan to have a crack!

NZSA and Manchester Trust announce New Writers' Award for 2009

For the first time, in 2009, the New Zealand Society of Authors together with the Manchester Trust is proud to be able to offer an award to recognise the oeuvre of published work by a mid-career writer. The purpose of the award is to offer recognition to an author who may not necessarily have previously achieved a high level of publicity for their work.

The award will be open to writers of fiction, poetry, short fiction collections, and literary non-fiction, and is worth $3,500.

A mid-career writer is defined as being one who has published a minimum of three books and a maximum of six. According to the 2007 survey commissioned by the Society of Authors, it was found that mid-career writers earned low amounts from their writing, and often had to struggle to find writing time. Writers who were identified as being mid-career earned an average income of around $10,000 directly from their writing. A large number of these writers received less than $1,000 per year.

Anecdotally, the mid-career of a writer can be slow as new writers often garner more media interest for their publications, and unless a writer is shortlisted for an award, their work can quickly fall into a black hole.

The NZSA hopes, by offering this award, to go some way to redressing such issues, at least for one writer, by offering both some monetary assistance and recognition of their work.

“We are delighted to be in a position to offer this award,” says Maggie Tarver, CEO. “Mid-career writers have been an area of focus for us for some time now, and this award concludes a lot of hard work and research. With ongoing sponsorship from the Manchester Trust we are thrilled to be able to offer this award again in 2010.”

The recipient of the award will be announced at a function in mid-December 2009, and they will be featured on the NZSA website. The closing date for nominations is 6 November 2009. You can get the nomination form online or from programmes (at) nzauthors.net.nz

13 August 2009

Voyagers Gets A Great First Review

The Wellington launch of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand is next Monday at the New Zealand Poetry Society meeting, Thistle Inn, 7.30pm. The wonderful Meliors Simms passed on to me the first review of Voyagers, and I'm so happy with it that I've reproduced it below.

Review of Voyagers from Star*Line, Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, May/June 2009, p. 19. Reviewed by Edward Cox.

Science fiction is a fertile ground for poetry. As easily as snapping fingers, it seems, imagery and ideas can kick the thought processes of readers into overdrive. The very mention of words like 'galaxy', 'sky', 'Earth', and 'alien', 'robot', 'human', can fill the imagination with all kinds of possibilities. With Voyagers, editors Mark Pirie and Tim Jones have gathered together some of New Zealand's finest poets to compile a collection that shows us all why the realm of science fiction poetry knows no bounds.

The book is divided into six parts, with titles drawn from popular culture: "Back to the Future", "Apocalypse Now", "Altered States", "ET", "When Worlds Collide" and "The Final Frontier". As these titles suggest, each part comes at science fiction from a different angle. In the introduction, the editors acknowledge that there is no universal definition for the genre, and with this in mind, all the poems herein are thought provoking, enigmatic and entertaining.

Janet Charman's "in your dreams" is a nice reminder of where we are, and that all the poems in the book are by Girls and Boys from New Zealand. "Einstein's Theory Simply Explained" by David Gregory is anything but simple, while Alistair Te Ariki Campbell's "Looking at Kapiti" uses classic literature and Maori history to describe the destruction of an island. Without doubt, the most humorous poem of the collection is "Tabloid Headlines" by Helen Rickerby. This one is a list of headlines, which sometimes invert expectancies or carry quotes that will have you chuckling long after reading. The best headline, perhaps, is of the woman who walked on water, who then explained, "No I'm not the messiah, I'm just very clever."

My favourite poem in Voyagers is also the very last poem in the book. "Space & Time" by Brian [sic] Sewell returns us to possibilities, fuelling the imagination, the heart of this collection. On one hand, the poem seems to wonder how far the human race can be trusted with space exploration and colonisation, given its history. On the other hand, it is a poem of imagery and ideas, adventure and peril, which opens in the way perhaps all great science fiction should:

a long time ago
in a galaxy far far away
are things that we know
and things that amaze—

Although Voyagers is a strong collection in its entirety, the bok is undoubtedly at its strongest when its source is New Zealand itself, and is often an education. For most, we only know this country from the stunning landscapes Mr Jackson showed us in the "The Lord of the Rings" movies. We tend to forget that New Zealand is a land of diverse cultures, mysticism and deep folklore. Editors Pirie and Jones have produced a collection that is an antidote to ignorance. The authors and their works have tapped into a fertile ground to ensure Voyagers is most worthy of note.

There will be copies of Voyagers available for sale at the meeting, but if you're not going to be there and would like a copy, you can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book; New Zealand Books Abroad; or Fishpond. You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

UPDATE: My interview on Plains FM with Helen Lowe about Voyagers is now available as a podcast: http://bit.ly/9mxI3 (12 minutes)

11 August 2009

Fantastic Voyages: Writing Speculative Fiction: Wellington, Thursday 17 September

Many thanks to Fitz for the poster

That's right! Helen Lowe and I are going to be getting together on the 17th of September, under the guidance and chairpersonship of Radio New Zealand's Arts on Sunday presenter Lynn Freeman, to discuss writing science fiction and fantasy in New Zealand — and getting it published too. Unity Books will be there to help sell books, and I hope that, if you're able to make it, you'll be there too.

If you're keen on reading and/or writing science fiction and fantasy yourself, this is your chance to discuss that topic with two writers who have been there and are doing that; and if sf&f are not genres you've previously paid much attention to, come along anyway and hear from two writers whose work spans genres.

I hope to see you there!

Helen Lowe
Helen Lowe's first novel, Thornspell is published by Knopf (Random House Children's Books) in the United States. Thornspell won the Sir Julius Vogel Award 2009 for Best Book: Young Adult while Helen herself won the award for Best New Talent. Thornspell was also a Storylines New Zealand Children's Literature Trust Notable Book 2009. Helen also has the first book in an epic Fantasy quartet, The Wall of Night, coming out with Eos (HarperCollins USA) in September 2010. She has had speculative short fiction published in NZ, the USA and Australia and is represented by Robin Rue of Writers House Literary Agency in New York.

Tim Jones
Tim Jones is a writer, editor and literary blogger whose recent books include short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), which mixes science fiction and fantasy with literary fiction and was longlisted for the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award; poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, co-edited with Mark Pirie (Interactive Publications, 2009); and fantasy novel Anarya's Secret (RedBrick, 2007). Tim has had science fiction and fantasy stories published in the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and Vietnam as well as in New Zealand. His science fiction story "The New Neighbours", from Transported, has been included in the forthcoming Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories, edited by Paula Morris.

Lynn Freeman
An award-winning arts journalist, Lynn Freeman hosts Radio New Zealand's Arts on Sunday programme (12 noon to 4 pm), which focuses on theatre, film, comedy, books, dance, entertainment and music. Lynn is an experienced and knowledgeable interviewer who is in demand to chair events for arts and literature festivals around the country.

10 August 2009

Missing the Target

The Government has announced that it will take a 2020 GHG emissions reductions target of between 10 and 20%, subject to a set of conditions, to the Copenhagen climate negotiations known as "COP15" in December. This is contrast to the 40% target that many NGOs, including Greenpeace and the Climate Defence Network, have been calling for. This 40% target was strongly supported in the recent public consultations on the issue.

Is it enough?
No. If developed countries collectively set such a weak target, there is little or no hope of developing countries agreeing to take action on climate change. That would mean failure at Copenhagen. Given that the world has (if we're lucky) about another 10 years before emissions spiral out of control, that would be disastrous.

Is it nearly enough?
No. Not even close. The science says developed countries need to make at least a 40% cut on 1990 levels by 2020 to have a 50:50 chance of staying below a 2% increase in global temperatures on pre-industrial levels. New Zealand is counted as a developed country. We should be going for a 40% cut. This isn't, ultimately, a matter of economics. It's a matter of survival: ours, and our children's.

Is it better than you expected?
I thought they might go for a 20% responsibility target, but the 10-20% range, and in particular the absurdly arrogant list of "conditions" - tremble, world powers, before the might of New Zealand! - both stick in my craw.

Is the target achieveable?
There's two ways of answering this. The target is what's called a "responsibility target", which means that we can pay for some - or, in theory - all of it by paying for emissions reductions to be made elsewhere in the world. For both ethical and practical reasons, however, most of the reductions should be made within New Zealand

OK, is it achievable if we make all the reductions onshore?
Yes. Quick back-of-the-envelope calculations like mine, and far more detailed studies produced by groups such as the Green Party (PDF), say that, with the necessary political will and the right incentives, reductions well in excess of 20% can be made - quite a lot of it at a profit.

So the Government has spoken. Is that the last word?
Absolutely not! Just because the New Zealand government takes a particular target to the negotiations doesn't mean that's the target we will end up with. No matter how much John Key might like to strut on the world stage, in the end, he'll be faced with the choice of either agreeing to a target in line with what other developed countries are adopting, or becoming known as the leader who scuppered the agreement. A little thought about what that might do for New Zealand's image and trading position should cure him of any temptations in that direction.

I don't think 10-20% is enough. What should I do?
Keep the pressure on, right up to Copenhagen (and beyond). Contact the Prime Minister, other Ministers, and your nearest MP. October 24 will be massive in the continuing campaign to get New Zealand to take on a realistic target - realistic in the sense that really matters, the survival of a livable ecosystem.

06 August 2009

An Interview with Tim Upperton

Tim Upperton’s poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in AGNI, Bravado, Dreamcatcher, Landfall, New Zealand Books, New Zealand Listener, North & South, Reconfigurations, Sport, Takahe, Turbine and Best New Zealand Poems 2008.

Tim has won first prizes in the New Zealand Listener National Poetry Day Competition, Takahe magazine's poetry competition, and the Northland and Manawatu short story competitions. He is a former poetry editor for Bravado, and tutors creative writing, travel writing and New Zealand literature at Massey University.

Tim, your first collection, A House on Fire, was launched on Montana Poetry Day, Friday 24 July, in Palmerston North. What are the key things that you would like prospective readers to know about this collection?

It’s a various collection, ranging across different forms and engaging with familiar aspects of domestic life as well as with things that interest me but which are remote from my daily concerns. So one poem is about making lunches each day for my four children, and another is about history as successive erasure, one forgetting piled on top of another. The first poem I ever published is in the collection, and that was ten years ago. And the most recently published poem, “History”, is also there, and appeared in New Zealand Books in June. So the collection is a record, I guess, of my published writing over a decade.

Is the collection representative of your poetry as a whole, or does it focus on one or more particular aspects of your poetry?

It’s representative in that most of my poems have found their way into it! Though there are exceptions: a few poems that have been previously published in magazines didn’t seem to belong, and have been omitted.

How did you become involved in writing poetry? Which, if any, poets have been most influential on your writing?

I studied literature – mostly English – at university, and had some ambition to be a writer, without actually writing very much. I wanted to write fiction, but the first piece of writing I submitted was a poem, and I was lucky to have it published in Sport. So of course I submitted a further batch of poems to Sport, which were duly rejected. And that was the start, for me – I kept writing, kept submitting, and the rejections and the acceptances came in. Fail better, as Beckett says. It took me a long time to realise that you don’t have to be very smart to write poems. I don’t think I have any particular wisdom to offer, and I’m bored generally by poets who do. Language is smart, so I don’t have to be – I try to listen to language, alert to the wisdom that’s inherent in it. And I arrange it on paper, a bit like shaking a kaleidoscope and looking to see what patterns emerge.

I often look to overseas models – British and American – when writing my own poems, and often not-so-recent poets with a formalist bent – Elizabeth Bishop, Weldon Kees, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Theodore Roethke. But lately in my capacity as poetry reviewer for Bravado I’ve been reading and enjoying a lot more contemporary New Zealand poetry. And I’ve been teaching New Zealand literature at Massey University this year, so I’ve been reacquainting myself with Curnow, Bethell, Baxter and so on. I admire the sense of place in contemporary New Zealand writing – there’s an ease and confidence there that I would wish to emulate.

I very much enjoyed my introduction to the Palmerston North poetry scene in June, when I visited to read as part of the Stand Up Poetry series. Do you regard yourself as an active member of that scene, or do you prefer to work away on your own for the most part?

Well, I’m active in that I attend most poetry gatherings, and there is a lot going on – tonight, for example, I’m reading with half a dozen other poets at Te Manawa, the Palmerston North museum, and that will be the third poetry event I’ve attended this week. Such events are fun, and they draw surprisingly large audiences, but they’re in stark contrast with the actual business of writing, which is generally solitary and difficult.

On July 20th, you and many of the other poets whose work is included in Best New Zealand Poems 2008 read together in Wellington. What did it mean to you to have a poem chosen for this collection, and did you enjoy the reading?

I was very pleased to have a poem included in Best New Zealand Poems. It is of course one person’s – in this case, James Brown’s – take on what is best; the selection process is hopelessly subjective. But I found myself in good company, and I caught up with a few friends on the day, including you! It’s a pleasure – and this is true also of the local events I mentioned previously – to be among people who take poetry’s importance and centrality as a given.

You teach creative writing at Massey University. Does working as a creative writing teacher have a good (or even a bad) influence on your own practice as a poet?

It must be a good influence, as I’m writing more these days than I did when I worked as a manager in local government. Writing is a series of delicate decisions, and as I review the decisions my students have made, I can’t help but reflect on my own.

You have been a poetry editor, and judged poetry competitions. I've enjoyed the editing I've done, but found that I don't write much poetry while I'm looking at lots of other people's poetry submissions. Has this been a problem for you?

Yes, my experience has been similar. I enjoyed editing, and also judging the Bravado poetry competition last year. But the work seemed to use up the writing part of my brain, and I didn’t produce many poems of my own at that time.

Turning away from poetry for a moment, I was intrigued by some comments you made, when we talked in Palmerston North, about your dislike of narrative in short fiction. Would you care to elaborate?

It’s of course a very general comment, and I can immediately think of exceptions. I’ve just reviewed Charlotte Grimshaw’s volume of linked short stories, Singularity, for example, and I admired it very much. But as a general comment, it’s true – narrative doesn’t particularly interest me. All that cause-and-effect, establishing motive, character development, the workings of plot – it’s like some rusted, obsolete machine cranking away. I love the economy of poetry – a short lyric poem can convey an effect that it may take a whole novel to produce. I can see that this is a personal prejudice. The contemporary fiction that interests me most is the kind that upsets our expectations of narrative – W.G. Sebald’s work, for example.

Finally, what literary project or projects are you now working on?

I’ve started writing poems again, which is a relief after some months of grooming my already-written poems for book publication. I sincerely hope my next collection won’t take as long to write as my first one.

by Tim Upperton

Evening light, olive oil
poured from a high jug: streaming
over the burnished back of the cricket
riding its bowing grass stem; glossing
the spade with its broken handle
leaning on the strainer-post that is itself
leaning, its crumbly lichen glowing,
the wire tired and slack; pooling
on the surface of the leylandii stump,
with its surround of buttery chips
from inexpert swipes of the axe.

Light is light, it is not kindness,
but if kindness had a colour, perhaps
it would be this – yes, you turn away
impatiently, yet it’s you who cannot
bear to crush a snail; who once, in heavy
traffic, abandoned the car, and in tears
strode to a maimed pukeko that fluttered
beside the wide road; you who killed
that bird with a swing and a crack –

stay with me, as the light goes
from gold, to grey, to black.

Book availability

A House on Fire, by Tim Upperton, Steele Roberts, 61pp, $19.99, ISBN 987-1-877448-68-3
Available from:

  • The publisher (www.steeleroberts.co.nz)
  • Bruce McKenzie’s, Palmerston North
  • The author (t.l.upperton (at) massey.ac.nz)
  • Or by ordering through your local bookshop

04 August 2009

Voyagers Sets Sail With A Great Crew

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand is making its public debut at the New Zealand Poetry Society monthly meeting in Wellington on Monday 17th August. The meeting, which starts at 7.30pm at Wellington's historic Thistle Inn, will feature local poets with work in Voyagers reading two poems each: one of their own poems from the anthology, and one other poem from the anthology that they particularly like.

The featured poets will include:

Puri Alvarez
Chris Else
Robin Fry
Tim Jones
Rachel McAlpine
Jane Matheson
Harvey Molloy
Michael O'Leary
Mark Pirie
Vivienne Plumb
Helen Rickerby
Mike Webber

I'm really pleased that so many poets have agreed to come along for Voyagers' maiden voyage!

As usual, the Poetry Society meeting will start with an open mike, so it's a good opportunity to come along, read your own work if you wish, and listen to some fine poets read poems from Voyagers.

There will be copies of Voyagers available for sale at the meeting, but if you're not going to be there and would like a copy, you can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book; New Zealand Books Abroad; or Fishpond. You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.