I’m The Guest Poet At The Ballroom Cafe On Sunday 17 October

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be the guest poet at the Ballroom Cafe in Newtown in October.

The details are:

Date and time: Sunday 17 October 2010, 4pm–6pm

Venue: The Ballroom Café, Newtown
(corner of Riddiford Street & Adelaide Road – see map)

Contacts: Neil Furby, ballroompoetrycafe (at) gmail.com
L. E. Scott, (04) 801-7773 (daytime)

Running Order:

About The Performers

Gracious Deviants Pete Edge and Darrel Greaney are an acoustic duo. Their sound is heavy with harmony and steeped in the traditions of the NZ singer/songwriter.

Tim Jones is a Wellington poet and author of both literary fiction and science fiction. His work has been published in NZ, USA, UK, Australia, Canada and Vietnam. He has just completed the manuscript for his third poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained.

Tim says:

The Ballroom Cafe poetry readings in Newtown, Wellington on the third Sunday of each month have rapidly become a staple of the Wellington poetry scene. That has a lot to do with the excellent hospitality of the venue, and even more to do with the great job Lewis Scott and Neil Furby have done in organising the events and bringing in an excellent, multicultural mix of poets, performers and audience members.

I am really pleased to have been invited to be the guest poet at October’s session. If you’re in the neighbourhood, I hope you’ll be able to come along, listen, and take part.

Poetry Runway: Promoting Poetry, One Contestant At A Time

UPDATE: As Jack Ross has pointed out (see the comments), Project Poetry is a much better title than Poetry Runway.

I went to Palmerston North yesterday to read in the Stand Up Poetry series at the very impressive Palmerston North City Library. I really enjoyed myself: I had a great time reading to an appreciative audience, sold plenty of books, had a lovely dinner before the event and lengthy pub discussions about poetry afterwards, and enjoyed meeting lots of new people and some poets I’d only met virtually before, including series MC Helen Lehndorf and my overnight host, Tim Upperton.

And it was on the way home from Palmerston North that the idea came to me. If reality TV shows could work for modelling (America’s Next Top Model), fashion (Project Runway), and the chance to enjoy the sexual attentions of Brett Michaels (Rock of Love), then why not a similar show for poetry? Because Project Runway is the only one of those shows I actually like, and because I have no imagination, I think it should be called Poetry Runway.

Here’s the set-up: fifteen arriving poets are selected to enter the competition, under the wise mentorship of a debonair poetry expert (Billy Collins, perhaps, or Margaret Atwood, or, if available, T. S. Eliot). Each week, they must complete a poetry challenge – a pantoum, a villanelle, a book-length encomium to Elizabeth the First – and each week, they must present themselves to the judges (obviously, the panel must be chaired by a supermodel, but the other members could be distinguished poets). Each week, one poet will be eliminated.

For three months, weekly at 8.30pm, we inhabit these poets’ lives. We see them triumphant, we see them despairing, we see the tears of each eliminated poet as they are given ten minutes to return to the workroom and pack away their laptop and thesaurus. We get up close and personal with the bitchy and the noble; we see the proud humbled and the meek exalted.

For the lucky winner, the rewards are many: a year-long poetry residency at a distinguished Midwestern university, guaranteed publication of their next collection, possession of the final Humvee to roll off the assembly line, and a seven-page spread in Elle magazine. But first, the top three contestants must face the ultimate challenge: putting on a half-hour poetry show at New York Poetry Week while the city’s leading poets chatter obliviously and clink their glasses.

Poetry fever would grip the world. Slim volumes would sell like slim hot cakes. Watercooler conversations would revolve around Heid Klum’s harsh comments on the use of ampersands. The show would be franchised, and here in New Zealand we’d all get to compete for a brand new bus pass and a chance to fall over in front of Jason Gunn.

I have the vision. All I need now is a television producer with a lot of money and very little common sense. Are you out there?

Portions of this blog post not affecting the outcome have been removed in consultation with the producers.

Reading Poetry at Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch (feat. North)

Last night, I was a guest reader, together with Fiona Farrell and Victoria Broome, at the first weekly session of the Canterbury Poets’ Collective Autumn Readings Series at Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch.

I had a terrible cold, but a good time. I was going to post a full and judicious report, but I discovered tonight that Catherine of Still Standing on her Head had got there before me, so I am going to recommend that you read her excellent report. I’ll just throw in a few additional comments:

  • I liked the venue. Madras Cafe Books does what it says on the label: There’s a cafe, with seating inside and out, and behind the cafe, a bookstore. The food at the cafe was delicious (I was very bad and had a mocha slice), and although the bookshop isn’t large, it has a good selection of interesting books from both New Zealand and overseas. Definitely recommended.
  • I was impressed by what I saw of the Canterbury poetry community (I’m not sure how many people came from out of town). There was a very good turnout, people were certainly friendly to me and seemed friendly to each other, and the standard of the poems read at the open mike part of the evening was high; there were many contenders for the prize for best poem from this section, won by Joanna Preston. It was great to meet poets I only knew by name or reputation, such as John O’Connor and James Norcliffe, as well as those I had met before – and I was especially pleased to be able to thank Fiona Farrell for including my story “Win a Day with Mikhail Gorbachev” in Best New Zealand Fiction 4.
  • It isn’t easy to read poetry to an audience when you have a sore throat. I was surprised my voice held out; I guess adrenalin got me through. Hardest of all the poems to read was “North”, from my first collection, Boat People. I do the Yorkshire-y bits in a variety of Yorkshire accents, and it isn’t easy trying to sound like the Clitheroe Kid when your voice is threatening to give way. Maybe I’ll put up an audio file one day, but in the meantime, here is North, inspired by my visit back to the land and accents of my birth in 1989 – with apologies to Harvey Molloy, who has had to put up with my lame renditions of accents not entirely dissimilar to his when he’s heard me read this poem.


On Ilkley Moor
I parked me red
Ford Laser hatchback
and gazed to the north.
Rain and smoke stood over Wharfedale.

It was all in its appointed place:
stone houses and stone smiles in Ilkley
the wind on the bleak
insalubrious bracken.

I was waiting for memory
to make the scene complete:
some flat-vowelled voice out of childhood
snatches of Northern song.

For memory read TV:
Tha’ve broken tha poor Mother’s heart
It were only a bit of fun.
Bowl slower and hit bloody stumps.

Tha’ll never amount to much, lad. In cloth cap and gaiters,
car forgotten, I pedal down the hill. Hurry oop
or tha’ll be late for mill. Folk say
I’ve been seeing the young widow Cleghorn.
Well, now, fancy that.

In my invented character
I trail my falsified heritage
down the long, consoling streets.

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.