New Zealand Poets Eligible for New International Poetry Prize

From the web site of Salt Publishing (thanks womenrulewriter for the tip):

The Crashaw Prize for Poetry

For the publication of debut collections of poetry from major new talents

The Crashaw Prize

“The Crashaw Prize is an international annual prize for a first collection of poetry. Entrants must not have been published before, and must permanently reside in the UK & Ireland, the USA, or Australia & New Zealand.

Salt accept submissions of poetry manuscripts postmarked from 1st January until 31st October each year. The winners will be announced in December and published the following June.

The Richard Crashaw Prize winners will receive synchronous publication in hardback in the UK and Australia and in paperback in the USA by Salt. There may be up to six winners each year. Winners will be issued with a standard publishing contract from Salt.”

Pretty cool, eh? If you are thinking about putting a first collection together, this seems like an opportunity you might want to take up.

See for the Terms and Conditions of the prize.

No Oil

I’ve posted here previously about our dependence on oil, and how to start addressing it. There’s a story in Transported, “Homestay”, which touches on the same theme — though, being fiction, it also includes people with wings flying around rural Southland, which I don’t actually expect to be a prominent feature of post-Peak Oil scenarios.

Here’s my one attempt, so far, to tackle the topic in poetry. “No Oil” was first published in Southern Ocean Review (together with “Replicant”), and is included in All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens.

No Oil

Bad news from the north
and the queues growing longer.
Late winter, I remember,
when the shipments ceased.

There was still oil for some
which showed
where power intersected with need:
The rich.
Ministerial limousines.

The rest of us walking,
riding bikes, taking trains,
as our grandparents had:
valuing land
for what it can grow.

A Great Leap Forwards
in reverse
our faith now
in the wisdom of the old.

The world to the north
turns to poison
a battle
of each against all.

Here we cling on
in the ruins of a false economy
doing to others
being done unto
looking back with angry eyes
on a century of waste.

(If the “shipments from the north” ceased right now, we could meet about 2/3 of New Zealand’s present oil demand from domestic production — but that’s unusually high at the moment because of the exploitation of the Tui field, and there’s no guarantee that production levels will stay this high for long.)

Twittering Robot Lands on Mars

Here’s three poems about Mars from All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens to celebrate the arrival of NASA’s Mars Phoenix Lander spacecraft on Vastitas Borealis, where it’s now Twittering from the Martian surface. (Hmmm, robots blogging from Mars. Where’s Sarah Connor when you need her?).

These poems are from the “Red Stone” sequence: the first one, the last one, and the cynical one in the middle. “Stone” was first published in Astropoetica and “The First Artist on Mars” in Blackmail Press 15.

A Mars-related poetry event is coming up: the guest reader at the AGM of the New Zealand Poetry Society is Chris Orsman, whose third collection, The Lakes of Mars, has just been released.* Unfortunately, I’m not going to be able to make this meeting, but I am looking forward to getting my hands on Chris’s book.

*I have a suspicion The Lakes of Mars may have more to do with Antarctica than Mars, but no matter – I like Antarctica too.


and all over iron

erosion shaped
of the warm wet days

sitting on this
arid plain
for the last
two billion years

standard Martian
red-brown drop
in a rust ocean.

The First Artist on Mars

Well, the first professional artist
There were scientists who, you know
but NASA sent us —
me and two photographers —
to build support for the program.

The best day?
That was in Marineris.
Those canyons are huge
each wall a planet
turned on its side.
I did a power of painting there.

You can see all my work
at the opening. Do come.
Hey, they wanted me to paint propaganda —
you know, ‘our brave scientists at work’ —
but I told them
you’ll get nothing but the truth from me

I just paint what I see
and let others worry
what the public think.
Still, the agency can’t be too displeased.
They’re sponsoring my touring show.
That’s coming up next spring.

Would I go back? Don’t know.
It’s a hell of a distance
and my muscles almost got flabby
in the low G. Took me ages
to recover — lots of gym and water time
when I should have been painting.

But Jupiter would be worth the trip!
Those are awesome landscapes
those moons, each one’s so different.
Mars is OK — so old, so red,
so vertical. Quite a place
but limited, you know?

Red Canvas

Red to white-blue-green
a thousand years, a million
doesn’t matter really

we will see it when it comes.
The God of War will grow
a coat of many colours

and life will paint another
tribute to the sun.

UPDATE: See this remarkable photo of the Phoenix Lander descending, taken by another robot, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Awe-inspiring! Skynet would be proud …

Book Review: Mark Pirie, Slips (ESAW, 2008)

I discovered cricket in 1969. At the time, we lived in Otatara, south of Invercargill. The only access I had to test cricket (for the uninitiated, this means five-day games between nations) was via radio: 4YC out of Dunedin were broadcasting commentaries on that summer’s tests between New Zealand and the West Indies. It wasn’t a powerful station, and the only way I could get reception in our house was to put my radio on top of the metal toilet cistern, which amplified the signal. (It’s possible this was inconvenient to other occupants of the house.)

Cricket is an old game which has developed a massive literature: not just the primary literature of statistics and match reports, but a secondary literature of fiction, poetry and plays. Mark Pirie has recently made a welcome addition to this literature with Slips, which is No. 21 in the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop’s excellent mini-series of poem booklets. Slips is dedicated to Harry Ricketts, another cricketing poet (and biographer), thus acknowledging its place in this literary tradition.

Mark knows whereof he speaks. My cricketing days are well past me, but my son played junior cricket up to the 2006/07 season, and several times, just as his team were packing up for the day, Mark would turn up with his senior team. The cover of Slips shows Mark poised to take a slips catch (again, for US readers, the slips are like extra shortstops who stand behind the batter and take catches off what in baseball would be fouls).

All the poems inside are about, or at least allude to, cricket. These allusions range from the glancing to the highly statistical: “Legacies and Cold Stats” and “Fiery Fred” would delight any cricket historian, while the longest poem, “11 Ways of Being Dismissed”, is based on a Cricinfo article about eleven unusual dismissals.

My two favourite poems in the book aren’t so stats-heavy. “Brown’s Bay” is a beautiful love lyric, while “The Pavilion”, following a long literary tradition, uses cricket as a metaphor for life.

This book displays many of the virtues of Mark Pirie’s poetry: humour, moving writing about grief and loss, and some classic last lines. I particularly like the final line of “Joe”, about a gentleman who starts distracting the scorer:

I watch his words aeroplane up and down his breath.

Whether or not you know your doosra from your googly, Slips is worth catching.