Research at the Hocken

I’ve just returned to Auckland from a research jaunt to the Hocken Library in Dunedin. I went there to look at artwork by Cilla McQueen in their pictorial collection.

The forever muffle in my ears (they don’t cope well with the altitude when flying!) provided a kind of sound proofing to concentrate on the huge quantity of work they have by Cilla McQueen. I went to look specifically at her experimental music and sound scores. I had no idea just how many (and how awesome!) artist books McQueen has made. They are often large-scale and short run (between 1 and 10, but usually around 6). The binding is wondrous. Sometimes very conspicuous, such as with ‘Spine-Tingler,’ for others the outside acts as a folder with the binding covered by hessian, silk strips of other fabrics. They are all made with high quality paper with absolute care to binding and presentation. Each one is individually drawn and hand printed using litter stamps. They’re not printed! Every copy must vary considerably.

Most of the artist books are soundscapes with  titles like “Inside the Peninsula, Songs for 5 voices.” Other single page soundscapes have great titles too: “two people fall silent for four seconds during ten seconds of conversation among five people in a crowded room.”

It was an invigorating and inspiring trip, both from academic and creative perspectives. Watch this space for some McQueen inspired artist books.

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‘The Balloon of the Mind’

An exhibition called ‘The Balloon of the Mind,’ after a poem by WB Yeats, opened at Special Collections at the UoA Gen Library yesterday. It’s on for 6 weeks and is open to the public. The exhibition includes three display cases. The first is about Yeats and his poetry, the second about Ian Donnelly, an NZ based book collector who collected and later donated a vast collection of first edition Irish Literature. The third case is all about Cuala Press. I was involved in curating the exhibition alongside Michele Leggott and Jo Birks. At MOTAT we printed a bookmark to go with the exhibition.

See the exhibition blog post here:  ‘The Balloon of the Mind’: Yeats, Donnelly and Cuala Press

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Black Mail Press 42

BMP editor Doug Poole has just launched issue 42 and it’s a ripper!

My parents gave me an audio recorder for Christmas and so I put togetther some audio poems and sent them in to BMP. Doug liked them and so they have been included in this issue alongside some super top notch poets.

Ngā mihi nui ki a Doug Poole rāua ko Penny Howard.

Click on the image to go straight to issue 42.

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NZSA Mentee of 2017

It’s just been formally announced by the NZ Society of Authors who the recipients of the Mentorship programme are for 2017.

I’m very excited to say that I am one of the 14 mentees for 2017. I have been paired up with the brilliant Vivienne Plumb who will be my mentor for the rest of the year while I work on a collection of poems.

You can find one of Vivienne’s poems here – 128 Abel Smith Street

You can find the announcement this year’s recipients here

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LOUNGE #54

It’s LOUNGE time of year again! I’m reading alongside amazing poets and writers on March 29th. I’m especially excited to be reading alongside Frankie McMillan. My Dad bought me The Bag Lady’s Picnic and other stories for Christmas in 2001. I got a hammock for Christmas that year too. We set it up and I read every story on Christmas day sitting in that hammock.

lounge-54-poster-with-border

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Ema Saikō Poetry Fellowship

I am so excited! I was awarded the 2017 Ema Saikō Poetry Fellowship, which is a residency at the New Zealand Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa. I will be there for three weeks in November.

I’ll be working on a series of landscape poems which will take the form of text as well as mark-making and calligraphic work.  These works will go towards a small hand printed chapbook which I will be printing with the team at MOTAT in early 2018 (all going well).

The fellowship is in honour of Ema Saikō, a Japanese poet, painter and calligrapher from the late Endo period. The picture on the right is a portrait she painted sourced from here.
I’d also like to acknowledge the fabulous poet and typographer Ya-wen Ho who was an Ema Saikō fellow last year.

So watch this space in November for some updates!!

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‘Certified Copies’ article in JNZL

I wrote an article last year Certified Copies: 1980s New Zealand Photocopy Journals & the Xerographic Aesthetic. The brief was “the influence of technology on NZ literature between 1975-2000” What resulted was an exploration of the journals And and Splash with a particular focus on the photocopier.

The article was published in JNZL late last year and my copy arrived in the post recently. The cover is a work by Judi Stout from And / 2, which I look at in depth in the article.

dsc_0319

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Māori Letterpress

Kia ora! After years of thinking about it, and 6 months of designing, planning, constructing and mostly waiting, the contemporary Māori typecase for hand-setting in te reo Māori is now an actual thing. The case has been ready for the type for a few months, but I was still waiting on the new type – the 5 vowels in upper and lower case with macrons, (tohutō). And those tohutō letters arrived today! This is the most exciting package I have ever opened. The things we get excited about! The type before it was dissed into the new case.

The type before it was dissed into the new case.

The type before it was dissed into the new case.

Close up of the A with tohutō in the case

Close up of the A with tohutō in the case

The case with just the new type

The case with just the new type

The full case.

The full case.

This afternoon I set a poem in Māori by Cilla McQueen that I translated earlier in the year. I found it surprisingly easy to switch to the new lay out. In particular I found the e moved to it’s no position to be ideal, so close to the t. And setting the frequent ‘ngā’ was so easy with the n and g next to each other and the a with tohutō just above. The move to have the w and k in their own large cells rather than squeezed into smaller ones around the outside was the real change. I’m so used to having to scrape around to get a w or k; they are so much more accessible now.

So, a huge success, now just to sort out a project that is fully in te reo Māori for some solid hand-setting with this new case!

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Sacred Economies Poetry Reading

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to go sharper” – W. B. Yeats. 

The exhibition Sacred Economies and its accompanying poetry reading draw our attention to how experiences of the sacred manifest through social transactions. It is interested in how rituals give life to events and objects that can transform our ordinary ways of thinking about and participating in the world. How do transactions of forms like poetry or folklore, which hold little monetary value, create an economy of sacred moments?

I have written a couple of poems in response to Philippa Emery’s work in the show and I will be performing these poems at the reading on Thursday. The poets I will be reading with have each been assigned an artist and their work to respond to. You will be able to take a look and experience the work the poetry is responding to as the poet reads or afterwards.

Looking forward to hearing from the other poets!!poetry-reading-sacred-economies

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Cats in Cilla McQueen’s ‘Markings’

Pirate and Lucille and Wombat

Markings is a collection of maps. The poems are the markings of record keeping, of laying out the land and laying out memory. At its core is ‘The Autoclave;’ a poem that crosses the globe back and forth across 18 pages. Journeying through a burnt out home in Dunedin to Madrid and the Mediterranean via objects lost in the fire, to St Kilda in the Scottish Hebrides, aboard the Priscilla to St Kilda in Melbourne Australia, and to Bluff where the anchor of the poem holds steady. It is a wayward map of memory and time conflated and interwoven. Throughout the journey is Lucille, a refined marmalade coloured cat. Two more cats, Pirate and Wombat bookend the collection.

The collection begins with ‘Pirate and the Mirror.’ He is totally uninterested in the mirror or its gold frame, despite his piratical name. Ultimately though, he is uninterested the mirror’s reflection and its ability to reflect. When he walks behind it he “forgets / the image thin as ice.” (5) It has no meaning. His attitude to the mirror guides the question of what we do with reflection, particularly when we reflect on a memory, one worthy enough to be kept in a gold frame. How accurately can we reflect upon a memory? What is a memory’s truth?

‘Pirate and the Mirror’ is immediately followed by ‘Lucille in Winter;’ she is the second cat to be found in Markings. She is thick furred and sleeping. She ‘might be dreaming of Te Rauone,’ a bay in Dunedin. She is dreaming and remembering of a place where she once lived. Unlike Pirate, she elegantly peers into the reflection for its memory.

The third cat, who appears in the same poem, is Wombat. This is the only poem in which all three cats appear, although it is clearly focussed on Lucille and the interactions between her and each of the other cats. Wombat “cleans his toenails with his tongue” in contrast to Lucille who elegantly “licks her white wrist.” Wombat “gazes at her absently,” while Pirate “pounce[s] around her, lunging with bared fangs.” (6) Each of these cats is clearly personified in their behaviour and ultimately symbolise very distinct reactions to the act of remembering. These three cats are the three faces of memory. Lucille is the face that remembers without intending, Wombat is the face that unabashedly picks through memory and Pirate is the face that oscillates. He does not ignore the past altogether but cannot seem to look at it. Pirate rejects the act of memory in ‘Pirate and the Mirror’ and reacts badly to Lucille who elegantly lounges in the act of remembering.

Lucille, the cat that remembers, appears in the middle of the epic poem ‘The Autoclave,’ and again nearer the end. Each time she is warm and comfortable; she’s  “curled up on the sheepskin” on page 26, and later

by the fire Lucille
little light
marmalade and white
purring into the flames
with her clean white front
like an unruffled duck (31)

Lucille’s character is extended by the knowledge that she survived the burning of the house. That she settles into memory having lived through it. “She is not afraid.” (31)Pirate and Wombat regard it diffidently.

In ‘Two Biscuits on a Stump,’ Wombat eats through his biscuits quick smart and goes after Pirate’s that have been carefully stashed. In carrying through with this notion of memory: it is Pirate who stores up the past with the expectation that he will return to it, but never does. He hides them away like biscuits. At the beginning of the collection, Pirate pretended such things did not exist. By the end of the collection he is starting to see the value in acknowledgment of the past. Wombat is unchanged; he eats them immediately. He is not bothered by the past, interested only in the present. That Pirate plays with his memories without experiencing them, means he never fully sees them, “Pirate makes a dash at the biscuit / Wombat gets there first” (59). The past is lost to Pirate, his delay in addressing it means an ongoing anxiety that he should have just looked at it properly before it was lost.

Having appeared in the very first poem, Pirate bookends the collection with his appearance in the final poem ‘Slinky’ in which “Pirate rests his chin on the windowsill / considering the sky” (64). After losing his catch of memories in the earlier poem ‘Two Biscuits on a Stump,’ perhaps Pirate’s attitude has become more like Lucille’s. A slow look at the sky as an overarching reflection of the land beneath it. The change in Pirate maps out how differently we can feel about the past. Lucille is almost lost in it completely; Wombat is little concerned by it. But Pirate cannot decide whether a foray into the past would be useful. His contemplation at the end here contrasts with his disinterest in ‘Pirate and the Mirror.’ The changes in his interaction, depicts a changeable attitude to memory and how situation colours not only the memory but our ability to face it.

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