Tuesday, July 20, 2010

There's Something Compulsory About This

I've been surviving on scraps of Hinemoana's work in journals for six years and now, finally, her second book has arrived.

It strikes me first of all as completely different in voice and style to her first. Where that was trimmed and clipped, almost to the syllabic level this is more voluptuous and 'talky', there is more in here of what I have come to love of her voice, the raw emotion, the turns of mystery and the self-deprecating humour. This is definitely a solid progression from the first book and also, perhaps this is the benefit of waiting six years, it's range is massive yet consistent in quality.

I loved dismantling the crane, fortune cookie and the fossils:

[...] Outside
men in orange vests prepare

to dismantle the crane
its four ropes of chain rise
like snakes from the bed

of a dusty truck, link after link

Her father visits for her 40th birthday. Don't think of it
as trying to conceive, he says. Think of it as catching a flight.
- wow, what a way to start a poem...

Well I
said the depot manager
I feel like I've swallowed
a large white
brick state house.
The brick isn't real
it's a kind of cladding.
At one corner
a nest of spiders is building.
And then there were some more readily available poems obviously influenced by her own childhood and her parents that were also up there in my list of faves:

From the squash club
The whole place smelled
like my father's gearbag

his headbands left overnight
in the wash-house.

And then more sonically experimental poems like the astonishingly visceral language sourced from a music theory exam paper in homebirth:
An emerging event two thirds of the way through
has a rising motion which gives way to
an exploding attacking sound.

Covers the full frame from root
(low thudding event)
to canopy
(floating bell echoes)
with the centre being occupied
by a wide band of white noise.

- floating bell echoes? Jealous.
Hinemoana also said at the launch that the best gift we can give her is to talk about the book on blogs, twitter, whatever. In this current state of great books passing by unoticed and unreviewed I like this idea of relying less on the print media and just putting the word out there ourselves in our own biased, unprofessional and incoherent way - all of which I am repetitively guilty of.
I was intending to write about it anyway, but I'm glad I could help her out in some small way because this book made me smile and not only because it was hilarious in places but because it was better than I expected it to be (on top of quite high expectations).
The first two lines in one of the most mysteriously intruiging poems about a kayaking trip called observation beach: a farewell mirrors in an opposite, yet reflective way, this book I think.
Soaked to my socks in spite of my spray skirt.
There's nothing compulsory about this.
And at the end of it I was soaked to my socks in lithe and slippery language, equal measures of mystery and truth and very much pleased that I had decided to leave my spray skirt on the beach.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Duets, sparkling

Went to the launch of Duets, a chapbook project that pits (?) a NZ poet against a US one.
Edited by my friend Alice Miller and featuring Sam Sampson, Joan Fleming and James Brown from the NZ side.

All good and all very different obviously. A nice selection I think. A couple of poems James read were particularly great, he started off by deprecatingly proclaiming himself "New Zealand's foremost writer of light verse." His poems were simple and funny, but mainly so tight, like little balls of poetry rolling down a hill, but not a scary hill, a nice gentle undulating one. There was poem that stood out from the rest, he decided to use the same phrase (the green plastic toy) in every sentence. It was amazing, read aloud anyway. Such a crazy constraint and what impressive skill to pull it off in the way he did. I won't give it away. You'll have to read it or better yet buy the chapbook. Anyway, there was some really interesting and varied stuff, Joan and Sam were great and a typically incisive intro by Bill Manhire too.

Obviously the old chapbook budget didn't stretch to flying the American writers over, so when I get my hands on some copies I'll report back on them. I can't even remember exactly who they were, except Dora Malech was one of them (definitely got to get one of those) and an Andew someone? Anyway, stay tuned for those.

What a great way to start the week!
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