24 February 2009

Canterbury Poets Present: Autumn Readings 2009

Poetry in Performance: Autumn Readings 2009

  • Open microphone and guest readers 
  • Wednesdays 6.30pm $5 entry 
  • Madras Café Bookshop, 165 Madras St – licensed and BYO. 
  • Win a $20 MCB voucher – audience vote for the best open mike poet each night 

And here's the lineup:

18 March: Tim Jones (that's me, folks!), Fiona Farrell, Victoria Broome

25 March: David Howard, Marissa Johnpillai, Helen Lowe

1 April: Frankie McMillan, Tusiata Avia, Ben Brown

8 April: Ian Wedde, Charlotte Trevella, Helen Yong

15 April: Richard Reeve, Diana Deans, John O'Connor

22 April: Bernadette Hall, The Hagley Writers

29 April: Kevin Ireland, Joanna Preston, Koenraad Kuiper

Everyone welcome; enquiries to: joyces (at) clear.net.nz

Yes, I'm off to Christchurch! I'm really looking forward to the opportunity to read in my Dad's home town, and to take part in a reading with Fiona Farrell, to whom I am indebted for choosing my story "Win a Day with Mikhail Gorbachev!" for The Best New Zealand Fiction: Volume 4. If you're in Christchurch, please come along to one or more sessions. This looks like a great line-up.

22 February 2009

Wellington Writers' Colony Is Go: Introducing the Cuba Street Garret

Since I first blogged about Doug Wilkins' plans to set up a Wellington Writers' Colony, modelled on the Sanchez Grotto Annex which he set up in San Francisco, Doug has been working determinedly to get over various hurdles and set the venture up. And now he has, which is all the more creditable in the current economic climate. Here's the press release Doug sent out to mark the occasion. If you'd like to know more, you can contact Doug by emailing dbwilkins@gmail.com or calling 021-138-5050.

Press Release for The Cuba Street Garret

Here comes The Cuba Street Garret, a combination of solitude and community for the toner-stained wretches we know as writers. We have purchased a flat on Cuba Street, and are outfitting it with offices so that writers can move in and get to work. Heat, Internet, and cleaning services will be provided, of course. This workspace will be called The Cuba Street Garret because Cuba Street is where it's located, and 'Garret' since there are few writers who can even afford a garret these days, but this would perhaps make that dream possible for several of them.

Costs are, naturally, a primary concern for everyone, so the rent will be only $80 per week; it could well be less than that once the fourteen (14) offices are filled.

The Cuba Street Garret will be up and running as early as, no fooling, April 1st.

And there will be no lengthy leases. Writers will never be asked to commit to more than one month at a time. The success of The Cuba Street Garret will come from the positive atmosphere therein.

Further Information

Members of The Garret will meet for lunch once a month.

They will have an open house celebration, 'The Welcome Interruption I,' from 5.30 until 8.30 on Friday evening, 17th April.

Located in the Watkins Building (corner of Cuba and Vivian Streets).

The Cuba Street Garret has a progenitor of a sort back in San Francisco, The Sanchez Grotto Annex, if anyone wants to see how a writers' workspace works. Those offices now have a waiting list, and we expect to have the same level of participation in Wellington.

Writers who wish to learn more or visit The Garret should contact Doug Wilkins: dbwilkins@gmail.com and/or 021-138-5050.

18 February 2009

Calls for Submissions

Two calls from submissions that may be of interest to New Zealand writers:

1) An Anthology of Writing about Canterbury

Wily Publications invites submissions of poetry and short prose (up to 2000 words) for an anthology featuring writings about Canterbury – coast, plains and high country. Fiction and non-fiction, current and historical works are welcomed, but copyright must be held by the person submitting the work. Work may be previously published, but not anthologised.

Submissions must be typed, double spaced (poetry may be single spaced), on one side of A4. Please ensure that name, postal and email addresses are included, a statement of ownership of copyright, as well as a stamped self-addressed envelope. Submissions will not be returned, and unaccepted work will be destroyed. Following publication, a small payment will be made for accepted work.

Please send submissions to: Canterbury Anthology, 37A Holly Road, Christchurch 8014

Submissions must be received by 28 February 2009.

2) US poetry journal looking for New Zealand poetry

Reconfigurations: A Journal for Poetics & Poetry / Literature & Culture

Reconfigurations is seeking excellent contemporary New Zealand poems for its November 2009 issue. Edited largely in the U.S., Reconfigurations is an electronic, peer-reviewed, international, annual journal for poetics and poetry, creative and scholarly writing, innovative and traditional concerns with literary arts and cultural studies.

Bryan Walpert will make the initial selection of poems. These will then be peer-reviewed by a panel of editors at Reconfigurations, who may opt to take all or only a selection of these. Please send up to five of your best poems by 15 April 2009 in a single Word file attachment to Bryan Walpert at b.walpert (at) massey.ac.nz along with a bio in the body of the email of up to 75 words. Please simply use “Reconfigurations” as your subject line. Unpublished work is preferred and will be given priority, but work published only in New Zealand will be considered. If you include published work, please indicate which poems have been published, where, and when.

15 February 2009

What Is Science Fiction Poetry? Part 2: History

After I spread the news about the upcoming anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (note the slight change in the subtitle), I had a crack at defining science fiction poetry.

But Mark Pirie and myself didn't invent the idea of science fiction poetry just for this anthology. In fact, it's a genre - or fusion of genres - that has been recognised for some time. The Science Fiction Poetry Association was founded in 1978 by Suzette Haden Elgin, and her About Science Fiction Poetry goes into some of the controversies about definitions and the like which have plagued, or enlivened, the field.

The Science Fiction Poetry Association has its own poetry magazine, Star*Line. It is one of a surprisingly high number of online and print magazines, many paying, which publish science fiction poetry - or, to be a little more inclusive, speculative poetry, which encompasses fantasy and horror poetry as well.

The SFPA also has its own awards, the Rhysling Awards, which honour the best science fiction poetry in long and short form - and lately, a further award, the Dwarf Stars Award, has been created for poems 10 lines or under. Both sets of awards lead to anthologies of the winning and nominated poems.

Of course, many science fiction poems have been published in non-genre venues, as the Acknowledgements to Voyagers will show; but if you'd like to get into writing, reading or debating SF poetry, there are magazines, websites, writers and readers out there who will be pleased to welcome you to their ranks.

08 February 2009

What Is Science Fiction Poetry? Part 1: Definition

It's poetry that's also science fiction. What more is there to say?

Quite a lot, actually. I'm not even going to attempt to define poetry, but science fiction itself is a notoriously slippery beast. To make it into Voyagers, the anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry that Mark Pirie and myself are co-editing, poems had to pass the twin filters of being good poetry, and of having a science-fictional element: of either or both using science fiction imagery, or science fiction ideas.

Here's an excerpt from the Introduction to Voyagers that discusses out the definition we used as we considered poems for the anthology:

Selecting poems for this anthology would have been much easier if there was a universally-agreed definition of science fiction. But there isn’t. A conservative definition might be that science fiction is that genre of literature which speculates about the effects of changes to the universe we know, where those changes follow or are extrapolated from known scientific principles.

This definition is inadequate – it would exclude a number of poems in this anthology – but it makes some key points:

  • Science fiction is a literature of change.
  • It is often set in the future.
  • Science fiction is counter-factual: the universe is changed in at least one respect from the universe as it was known to the writer.
  • The changes in science fiction are extrapolations based on accepted or speculative scientific principles.

This is why some types of universe are excluded, such as those of fantasy, where the changes are supernatural rather than natural, or of magic realism and fabulation, where the changes are not rationalised. In addition, we reluctantly had to exclude many excellent poems which dealt with astronomy, or with the history of space exploration, but which lacked the crucial element of speculation.

But what riches remain! You’ll find the ‘traditional’ concerns of science fiction here: aliens, space travel, time travel, the end of the world – and also concepts you may not previously have thought of as science fiction. Whether questioning, apocalyptic or playful, these are poems which shine the flashlight of science fiction on our universe, and relish the strange images which result.

Now, what's above is just our definition of science fiction poetry. Yours may vary; indeed, it probably will. But science fiction poetry isn't just a matter of definition - it's an amalgam of science fiction and poetry with a surprisingly long history, and even its own set of awards. I'll blog about that history next time.

04 February 2009

Voyagers: A New Zealand Science Fiction Poetry Anthology

In 2004, Mark Pirie and myself decided that it would be a good idea to put together an anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry. We knew that there were people writing science fiction poetry in New Zealand, and we knew of a few published examples of NZ science fiction poetry. How hard could such a project be? So we put out a call for submissions, and many poets responded with new or previously-published work.

At the same time, we split the corpus of New Zealand poetry (hmmm, "corpus", never thought I'd use that word in a blog post) between us and looked everywhere we could for published NZ SF poems. We were amazed how many we found: nuclear apocalypses from the 1950s and 1960s, utopias and dystopias from the 1960s and 1970s. We used a reasonably broad definition of science fiction, but even so, we found more poems than we could use. We discovered that poets such as Allen Curnow, James K. Baxter and Cilla McQueen had written science fiction poetry.

The next problem, finding a publisher for the anthology, proved to be a little harder. Most New Zealand publishers we approached did not think the anthology was a commercial proposition; one publisher took on the project subject to its receiving Creative New Zealand funding, but the publishing application was unfortunately unsuccessful.

It seemed that we had run out of options to have an anthology of the desired size and quality published, but then Mark approached Australian publisher Interactive Publications, having heard that they were to publish a book of Iain Britton's poetry. We were very pleased to hear that Interactive Publications were willing to publish the anthology in a print run large enough to make it worthwhile.

The next step was to go through the lengthy process of getting permissions from authors and publishers to reprint poems which had previously appeared elsewhere. Interactive Publications was unable to offer payment to authors, something we had wanted to do, and understandably, some authors and publishers pulled work from the anthology because of this. However, this gave us the opportunity to refresh the anthology with some newer poems, and at last the manuscript has been completed and sent to the publishers - except for the Contributors' Notes, which I'm currently collating.

I'm really pleased that we have finally got this project off the ground after many years of trying. I think it's going to be a fine anthology. I'll tell you more as the publication date approaches.

01 February 2009

Katherine Mansfield Society Launched

Katherine Mansfield, still New Zealand's most famous author - despite the increasing claims of Lloyd Jones - has been further memorialised with the creation of the international Katherine Mansfield Society.

The Society's website aims to be the world’s most comprehensive hub of information on Mansfield. It includes images, literature on Mansfield and downloadable versions of many of her short stories.

Katherine Mansfield is one of those authors whom I studied at high school and have scarcely read since. For some such authors, high school exposure was enough to give me a lifetime aversion to their work: the most prominent author to fall victim to this syndrome is Charles Dickens, whose work I found impossibly protracted and tedious as a teenager. But I enjoyed the Mansfield stories I studied, and I am not sure why I haven't read more of her work.

To make up for this, I have just started reading her Stories. But if you are an experienced Mansfield hand, or want to take the first steps into discovering her work, then the Katherine Mansfield Society seems like a good place to start. And they are very keen to attract new members!