Tuesday Poem: Down George Street In The Rain

Down George Street In The Rain

I talked to the shop signs
down Cuba Street
down Cashel Street
down George Street in the rain.

I sidestepped the shoppers.
Take that, Phil Bennett!
Take that, old lady with a limp
and orthopaedic shoes.

We were as Gods
as eighteen-year-old Gods
who wore our Gore High jerseys to the bottle store —
they wouldn’t let us in.

We smiled upon our people.
People, we said, we walk among you.
Don’t bow, don’t scrape, don’t even step aside.
In gratitude, in wonder, let us pass on

to our destinies, our mortgages
down Cuba Street
down Cashel Street
down George Street in the rain.

Tim says: “Down George Street In The Rain” was first published in broadsheet 3 and is one of the poems included in my forthcoming collection, “Men Briefly Explained”. As the notes to that collection explain, Phil Bennett, the No. 10 in the 1977 British Lions rugby touring team to New Zealand, was famous for his sidestep.

I turned eighteen in 1977.

For non-New Zealanders: Cuba St, Cashel St, and George St are central city streets in, respectively, Wellington, Christchurch, and Dunedin.

Check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog.

A Number of Things

The world is so full of a number of things
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings
(Robert Louis Stevenson, “Happy Thought”, in A Child’s Garden of Verses)

Climate Action Festival

I’m less than happy about the incoming New Zealand Government’s views on climate change. It took a great deal of time and effort to get the previous Labour government to take action – weak, partial action, but action nevertheless – designed to reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. The recently-elected National-led government seems not only willing but eager to sacrifice these modest gains on the altar of its coalition agreement with hard-right climate change denial party ACT.

An early chance for Wellington people to get a message to the Government about the need to take meaningful action on climate change is the Climate Action Festival on at Waitangi Park this coming Saturday, 6 December, from 11am-4pm. I’m going to spend a couple of hours on the Climate Defence Network stall. The organisers have some interesting things planned – it should be a good day!

Congratulations to Joanna Preston

The big New Zealand poetry news of the last week or so is that Joanna Preston has won the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Prize for an unpublished poetry collection. Her collection “The Summer King” will be published in 2009, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2009

The Sir Julius Vogel Awards are New Zealand’s equivalent of the Hugo Awards. They recognise excellence in a number of fields related to science fiction, fantasy and horror.

Nominations for the Vogels are now open and close on 28 February 2009. You can find details of the categories and how to nominate on the SFFANZ site, and also lists of works that could be nominated (these depend on self-reporting, so may not be comprehensive, but look for those with a 2008 date). Before Christmas, I plan to put up a post looking at possible contenders in more detail, but in the meantime I suggest “for your consideration” (as they say in Hollywood) Transported and some of the individual stories in it, JAAM 26 and some of the individual speculative fiction stories in it, and Helen Lowe’s Thornspell.

broadsheet 2

Mark Pirie has produced the second issue of his poetry journal broadsheet. This issue is a tribute to Wellington poet Louis Johnson on the 20th anniversary of his death, and features poetry by many of his contemporaries, as well as newer writers: the full lineup is Peter Bland, Richard Berengarten, Marilyn Duckworth, Kevin Ireland, Louis Johnson, Miranda Johnson, Harvey McQueen, Vincent O’Sullivan, Alistair Paterson, Helen Rickerby, Harry Ricketts, Martyn Sanderson, Peter Shadbolt, Nelson Wattie, and F W N Wright.

That lineup alone tells you that the issue will be well worth reading; for some more reasons why you should get hold of broadsheet 2, see Harvey Molloy’s review.

Missing the Point?

Jennifer van Beynen has reviewed Transported in the Lumiere Review. She wasn’t very keen on the collection as a whole, although she did have some good things to say about individual stories.

Reviewers are fully entitled to their opinions, whether good or bad, but it’s helpful when a reviewer is familiar with the genre(s) of a work and the nature of the stories under review. A couple of Jennifer’s comments suggest to me that this wasn’t the case. She says “I found Transported at times to be baffling and frustrating. This may be because of the heavy science fiction content (I’m not a fan), but that’s just my personal preference” and also, in reviewing “Cold Storage”, says:

Often there is scant detail or emotional reaction in these stories; things happen and the story carries on, with little emotional payoff. I found the fantasy stories particularly alienating. In ‘Cold Storage’, for example, the main character has little response to life-threatening and bizarre events other than an annoying arrogance, even when faced with certain death in Antarctica.

One view of short stories is that they are (or should be) all about character, and the revelation of character; that they should incorporate a still, small moment which shows how the protagonist has changed or grown – an “emotional payoff”, in other words.

I agree that this is a very valid thing for a short story to do, and some of my favourite short story writers (such as Alice Munro) do exactly this in their stories, but I don’t agree that it’s the only thing a short story can do. There are stories in Transported that do hinge on the revelation of character; others in which the protagonist is no wiser at the end than the beginning; and others still in which character is secondary to other aspects of the story.

That’s the sorts of stories Transported contains. It’s very possible that the stories could have been better, but to write a review based on the desire that Transported should have contained other sorts of stories than it does contain seems to me to be missing the point.

Mark Pirie’s New Poetry Journal broadsheet Makes Its Debut

broadsheet 1: New New Zealand Poetry

(May 2008)

Published by The Night Press, Wellington. Available from: The Editor, 97/43 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington 6011. Subscriptions $12.00 for 2 issues.

Mark Pirie initiated, and was one of the founders and co-editors of, JAAM Magazine, and is a prolific poet and anthologist. Now he’s embarked on a new venture: a new poetry magazine called broadsheet (no relation to the famous New Zealand feminist magazine).

broadsheet #1 consists of a series of poems which were, in fact, originally intended, and in some cases issued, as broadsheets: double-sided sheets each containing two poems by the same author. Bookshops found these difficult to stock, however, so Mark has taken the broadsheets, plus some further poems, and combined them into a magazine.

Sadly, broadsheet stands as a memorial volume to two of its contributors, Victor O’Leary and Meg Campbell. The other poets included are shown on the cover.

My favourites from this issue: Tony Beyer’s “Ode”, with its superb last stanza which is both a masterpiece of economy, and expresses a sentiment with which I thoroughly agree; Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s two poems – I still don’t believe his poetry has received as wide recognition as it deserves; Evelyn Conlon’s “For Yana”; Basim Furat’s “The Buraq Arrives in Hiroshima”; and Michael O’Leary’s “Sonnet for Victor O’Leary”. But to single these out is not to denigrate the other poems: there was no poem in this issue that I did not enjoy.

broadsheet isn’t open to submissions at this stage (which didn’t actually stop me from submitting, but hey, I didn’t know the rules then!). Poems for inclusion are solicited by the editor. If Issue 1 is anything to go by, future issues of broadsheet will be well worth reading.