Climate Fiction, Climate Fact: My Writers in Schools visit to Nelson-Tasman

Tim Jones running a Writers in Schools workshop at Motueka High School

In early August, shortly before large parts of the country went into COVID lockdown, I visited 5 schools in Nelson-Tasman on a visit organised by the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Writers in Schools scheme and sponsored by the Rātā Foundation.

Writers in School is a very worthwhile scheme that connects schools who want writers to visit, with writers who are keen to visit! I’ve done some individual school visits under the scheme before – the most recent, a very enjoyable visit to Wellington East Girls’ School to do a Q&A with a class who’d been reading my climate fiction novella Where We Land – but never a tour.

The trip was initiated by Motueka High School, who asked whether I could come to the school for a series of talks and workshops with their students on writing climate fiction and non-fiction. I said I’d like to do that if the trip could be combined with visits to other schools in the region, and thanks to excellent cooperation between Nelson-Tasman schools and ReadNZ, I ended up visiting five schools in three days:

Nelson College
Tapawera Area School
Motueka High School
Waimea College
Waimea Intermediate

I ran workshops and gave talks on writing climate fiction, writing fiction in general, and writing opinion pieces (“columns”), with students ranging from Year 5 to Year 13.

What did I take away? First of all, much as I enjoyed the visit, I was shattered after three days – I have no idea how teachers do it for week after week! Both the students, and the teachers and librarians, I met inspired me.

Talking of teachers, I very much appreciated the lovely hospitality I was offered, which kept me fed and watered throughout my tight schedule. My lunch wth the English teachers at Motueka High School was a particular highlight.

My final session finished the tour on a high note. I had only an hour with this self-selected groups of keen readers and writers in Years 7 and 8 at Waimea College, and my energy was down by the time I got there, but the group’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for writing was remarkable. When we did a brainstorm on “what makes stories work well”, one young student replied “foreshadowing and foretelling”, and when I asked her what those were, she gave a much better explanation than I could have done, with relevant examples!

I loved seeing the enthusiasm of the students, yet I couldn’t help asking myself: what sort of future are these young people facing? More and worse storms. More fires. More floods – all of which have hit the Nelson-Tasman region in the last couple of years. And the sea creeping ever upwards, ever inwards. It isn’t their fault. It isn’t even our fault, unless you happen to be, for example, a senior oil company executive or a coal mine owner. But it’s up to all of us to demand and take action to cut emissions sharply now, because if we don’t, an already dangerous future is bound to become much worse.

Herald of Poseidon: Here’s how I appeared to one student at Motueka High School. (For the record, I am flattered by this portrait!)


Handwriting and hand-drawn image of Tim Jones by a Motueka High School student

Photos and image credits from my day at Motueka High School: https://www.facebook.com/motuekahslibrary




Protest! Shaping Aotearoa

Many Hager’s new book Protest! Shaping Aotearoa is being launched this Thursday in Wellington, and you’re invited to the launch – if you’d like to come, please RSVP to media@onetree-house.com by Tuesday 10 August.



Invitation to launch of Protest! Shaping Aotearoa, including image of cover and image of the author, Mandy Hager

Launch details

Where: Vic Books Pipitea, Rutherford House, 27 Lambton Quay Wellington
When: Thursday 12 August, 5.15-6.30pm
Who: The book will be launched by Nicky Hager, with an introduction by Chloe Swarbrick

I’m looking forward to attending the launch and getting this book – not only because I think such histories are vital to inform and inspire new generations of activists, but because it contains a chapter on the Save Aramoana Campaign, the successful campaign to prevent a second aluminium smelter being constructed on a salt marsh at the entrance to Otago Harbour. I was involved in that campaign and gave some info to Mandy about it for the book – I’m looking forward to reading that chapter, and all the others!

The Blackball Readers and Writers Festival 2021

I last visited the West Coast in 1989, when I returned to Haast Beach, where I’d lived as a young child. (Here’s my poem about that return journey: Shetland Ponies, Haast Beach – and below is Lake Brunner, near Blackball.)

Lake Brunner, West Coast, South Island

For that and many other reasons, I was very glad to be invited as a guest to the Blackball Readers and Writers Festival – originally scheduled for 2020, but postponed till 2021.

I enjoyed getting to know the village of Blackball, where as the map below shows there is a lot going on. I enjoyed listening to the sessions, which gave so much more opportunity to get to know writers than the usual two-questions-and-on-to-the-next-panelist format of larger writers’ festivals. AndI enjoyed the panel I was on, where Caroline Selwood interviewed Kathleen Gallagher and I about wiring and activism, and what motivates us as writers.

Map of Blackball

Blackball is a remarkable community, which both acknowledges and celebrates its mining past and is actively seeking to move beyond it. Here’s more about Blackball, the Festival, and Blackball’s role in promoting a Justice Transition away from fossil fuels for the West Coast:

– Festival Report: Readers & Writers Festival successful
– Radio NZ: Blackball – the town that refused to die
Coast future highlighted at May Day forum

I Talked With Solar Tribune About Climate Policy

I mostly keep this blog about my creative writing – but I juggle that with family time, paid work, and my climate change activism for groups such as Coal Action Network Aotearoa and Connect Wellington.

Recently, US publication Solar Tribune interviewed me as part of their series of interviews with people working on climate policy. I contributed to sections on the need to ban coal mining and use and the importance of a just transition.

Since the interview, the New Zealand Government has announced a ban on low- and medium-heat coal boilers and a phase-out date of 2037 for existing coal boilers – but in a climate emergency, 2037 is at least a decade too late. Climate groups will be keeping the pressure on to ensure that coal boilers are phased out much earlier – and that the transition is to renewables, not gas.

Solar Tribune is worth checking out – and as well as the climate policy stuff, there’s also a section on actions individuals can take – notably, getting involved in pushing for stronger and more urgent climate action and for climate justice!

More Favourable Waters: Aotearoa Poets Respond to Dante’s Purgatory

I’m very pleased to be one of the 33 poets included in More Favourable Waters, a new anthology published by the Cuba Press, which is being launched on Thursday 25 March at Unity Books from 6-7.30pm:

https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2021/double-book-launch-more-favourable-waters-quantum-of-dante/wellington

Much to my frustration, I can’t attend the launch, but I’d love to be there.

Here’s more info about the book. Writing a poem for this anthology which incorporated a fragment of Dante’s poem, in Clive James’ translation, was a formidable challenge, but one I enjoyed! I’m very much looking forward to reading the anthology.

About the book

More Favourable Waters, edited by Marco Sonzogni and Timothy Smith, is an anthology of contemporary poets from Aotearoa New Zealand commemorating one of the world’s great poets, Dante Alighieri (1265–1321), 700 years after his death.

Each of the 33 poets has written a poem of 33 lines inspired by and including a short passage from one of the 33 cantos of Dante’s Purgatory, the second part of his epic The Divine Comedy.

Airini Beautrais • Marisa Cappetta • Kay McKenzie Cooke • Mary Cresswell • Majella Cullinane • Sam Duckor-Jones • Nicola Easthope • David Eggleton • Michael Fitzsimons • Janis Freegard • Anahera Gildea • Michael Harlow Jeffrey Paparoa Holman • Anna Jackson • Andrew Johnston • Tim Jones • Elizabeth Kirkby-McLeod • Hugh Lauder • Vana Manasiadis • Mary McCallum • Elizabeth Morton • Kōtuku Titihuia Nuttall • Vincent O’Sullivan • Robin Peace • Helen Rickerby • Reihana Robinson • Robert Sullivan • Steven Toussaint • Jamie Trower • Tim Upperton • Sophie van Waardenberg • Bryan Walpert • Sue Wootton

https://thecubapress.nz/shop/more-favourable-waters/

My poem “Form Factor” has been nominated for a Rhysling Award

My poem “Form Factor”, first published in the Cat People issue of the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s online journal Eye to the Telescope, has been nominated for the 2021 Rhysling Awards for science fiction, fantasy and horror poetry alongside many other fine poems.

Cat lying on a concrete deck in the shadow of a fruit salad plant

Form Factor

I downloaded myself into this shape
to be free. Now it consumes me.
So strange to dream of skin

and wake in fur. Curled, unfurling.
Once I knew things, useful things.
How to press those little keys,

how to open cans. I mourn
my thumbs: blunt instruments
that fed and housed me once.

Necessity reduces me. I hunt,
must hunt, my body weight
diminishing. Mouse, bird. Focus,

sharpen, ignore his murmurings.
He comes to me in dreams, begging
to be poured into his fur-free form –

but nothing he says can make me care.
Through sunlit hours I sleep, save energy,
twitch distracting thoughts away. At sunset

my hackles, rising, remember him.
You could have chosen any form,
you fool, yet you chose mine.

The brief for the Cat People issue was poems about people becoming cats / people who are also cats. It produced some really good poems, and I was delighted the editor included my poem in this issue.

Book Review: “The Death of Music Journalism” by Simon Sweetman

Front cover of The Death of Music Journalism, a poetry collection by Simon Sweetman

Before I say anything else, I loved the cover of this new poetry collection by well-known music journalist – and performer, and blogger, and poet – Simon Sweetman. The cover of The Death of Music Journalism is both highly informative and ever-so-slightly surreal, which really appeals to me.

I’m not sure whether he’d take this a compliment, but I think of Simon Sweetman as an old-school music journalist, the kind who could conceivably have stepped out of the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, a local and latter-day Robert Christgau or Lester Bangs. I think of him writing passionately in favour of bands and albums I like (Bowie!), and equally passionately against other bands and albums I like.

So I had a little trepidation prior to opening this volume – oh my god is he going to have another go at St Vincent?, but my fears were quickly laid to rest. These poems are still passionate about music and life, but they’re also reflective, funny, discursive, and really, really well written. They’re about Simon’s relationship with music – favourite songs, favourite bands, favourite musicians – but also how music has reflected and influenced his relationship with his family, as in “Father and Son”, which isn’t just, or even mainly, about the Cat Stevens song.

You don’t have to know your paradiddles from your palm muting to enjoy this book. Music is the kicking-off point for many of these poems, but they’re mostly about people. If you know who Steve Gadd is or have an opinion about Mark Knopfler’s guitar solos, then that might add a little frisson to your response, but such knowledge is far from essential. The Death of Music Journalism is a sprawling, generous, entertaining and moving collection of poems, and I recommend it.

Book Review: “Five O’Clock Shadows” by Richard Langston



Front cover of Five O'Clock Shawdows, a poetry collection by Richard Langston

I’ve heard Richard Langston read a number of times over the years, and always enjoyed his work, but at the Southern Writers at Te Awe Brandon Library event in October 2020 I was particularly struck by how much I enjoyed the poems from his new collection Five O’Clock Shadows, published by The Cuba Press. So I was keen to read them as well as hear them – and Five O’Clock Shadows, Richard’s sixth collection, doesn’t disappoint.

Richard enjoys a lot of stuff I also enjoy: Dunedin, Wellington, cricket, music. A collection that includes a poem about Brendon McCullum’s 302 vs India at the Basin Reserve, and a poem about how marvellous Dunedin is, has already gone a long way towards securing my loyalty. But it’s some of the poems I’m not pre-wired to enjoy that most stand out for me here – such as “Bsharri, Lebanon” and “Sons”. This is a fine, humanistic collection.

(For the avoidance of doubt: I do not in any way identify with the subject matter of the poem “Snoring”. Not at all.)




Two New Books: “Upturned” by Kay McKenzie Cooke and “I Wish, I Wish” by Zirk Van Den Berg

I’ve been catching up with my reading over the holidays – here are two new books worth your attention, both published by The Cuba Press.

Upturned is a new poetry collection by one of my favourite poets. I Wish, I Wish is the second volume in the Cuba Press Novella series – my climate fiction novella Where We Land was the first in this series.

Upturned by Kay McKenzie Cooke.

Kay McKenzie Cooke is one of my favourite poets. Her poetry connects with me on both levels that really matter to me: emotion and language. For me, there’s an extra level of connection in that Kay was born in Murihiku / Southland, where I grew up, and some of her poems feature places I know well and times I’ve experienced.

But even if you have no connection with Southland – or for that matter Berlin, where a section of this collection is set – these poems are likely to speak to anyone who enjoys beautiful, resonant writing that is strongly connected with land, people and memory.

These poems are both highly skilled and very welcoming – this is poetry that invites you in rather than fences you out. So even if you don’t usually read poetry, give Upturned a try. You won’t regret it.

Front cover of Upturned, a poetry collection by Kay McKenzie Cooke


I Wish, I Wish by Zirk Van Den Berg

As the title signifies, I Wish, I Wish is a fairy tale – but it’s a very down-to-earth one. Mortician Seb’s monotonous life is abruptly upturned after he meets a dying young boy called Gabe. At the start of the novella, Seb is thoroughly stuck in an unsatisfying life that’s going nowhere, and by the end … well, read it and find out.

This novella works because Zirk Van Den Berg steers away from sentiment while communicating the protagonist’s emotions effectively. This is a very well-written book, with neat touches of humour that offset what could otherwise be too moralistic a narrative. I wasn’t sure I wanted to start 2021 by reading another story about death, but before long I was caught up in this novella, and I think you will be too.


Front cover of I Wish, I Wish, a novella by Zirk Van Den Berg

Southern Writers at Te Awe Brandon Library – 20 Oct 2020

From the Wellington City Library blog:


Image shows books by poets taking part in the Southern Writers event
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20 October 2020
Te Awe Library – 29 Brandon Street
12.30pm to 2pm
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Join the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/2763822373868512/

This event inaugurates the Te Awe event space, with six fine poets and prose writers giving a very special lunch time reading. All hail from Dunedin or Southland.

They are:

Kay McKenzie Cooke, Richard Langston, Tim Jones, Nick Ascroft, Madison Hamill and Jenny Powell, with Mary McCallum reading some of the late Elizabeth Brooke-Carr’s work.

So why not take this rare opportunity, grab your lunchtime sandwiches or buy one from the Te Awe café, and enliven your lunch listening to some of New Zealand’s finest poets reading from their works. Enjoy.

Hop across to the Wellington City Library blog for further details of the poets and their latest books!

Images of authors taking part in the Southern Writers events