Tuesday Poem: The Balcony, by Iain Britton


Painted lines

criss-cross this universal playboy
of the Polynesian world.

A strange masochism is at work
threading hot wires through veins

connecting me to him
                           to this epiphany in progress.

He compartmentalizes the morning

inhabits a caption          written for him

for a picture

of his maidservant       her dog       her cat.

He explores by touch
strips of sunlight              draped over a balcony.

He’s neither soldier

                        sailor                   butcher

but carries a helmet for his journey.

From the balcony

blunted-blue agapanthus
choke in numbers.

Credit note: “The Balcony” is the opening poem in Iain Britton’s new collection Punctured Experimental, published by Kilmog Press and available from Parsons Bookshop in Auckland.

Tim says: I interviewed Iain Britton in 2009, shortly before his collection Liquefaction was published by IP. Iain subsequently got in touch to let me know about Punctured Experimental and to let me know that his work was moving in a more experimental direction – as reflected in the title of his new book, which continues the impressive publication schedule of Dunedin’s Kilmog Press.

The Road Goes Ever On And On

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.

[JRR Tolkien]

Well, the Road may go ever on and on, but I’ve stopped following it. The Voyagers Book Tour of New Zealand has moved north of Wellington, while I remain, dipping my weary feet in snow just deep enough to serve as a coverlet for a hobbit’s toes.

I could report tales of drunkenness, drugs and debauchery from my travels with Voyagers, but I won’t, because I’d have to make them up, and I’m tired. What I can say is that the events in Dunedin (on the 14th and 15th – Kay McKenzie Cooke reported on the latter), Christchurch (here’s a report) (16th), and now Wellington (19th) have gone well, that I’ve met old friends and new, and that many poets seem to have found inspiration from their first exposure to science fiction poetry!

In that regard, I’m really pleased that we decided to have an open mike for science fiction poetry at those events where the lineup of Voyagers poets was small enough to permit it – which means all the South Island events and the events at Paraparaumu Library on the 20th and the Depot Arts Centre, Devonport, on the 24th. It was great to hear the Voyagers poets read, both their own work and that of other poets who couldn’t be there (such as Katherine Liddy’s “Crab Nebula”, which even had poets competing to read it one venue). It was equally exciting to hear poets, inspired by the occasion, reading science fiction poems they had recently written — Kay McKenzie Cooke and Helen Lowe among them.

So now the road, and the tour, go on, in the capable hands of IP publisher and poet David Reiter, while I remain behind, dealing with all the tasks that have accumulated while I’ve been away. The remaining events on the Voyagers Book Tour are:

Auckland Central Library, 22 Oct, 5.30pm, with Raewyn Alexander, Jacqueline Ottaway, Iain Sharp, Michael Morrissey, Anna Rugis, Alastair Paterson, Iain Britton, Thomas Mitchell, Janet Charman and David Reiter

Devonport, Depot Arts Space, 28 Clarence Street, 24 Oct, 6:30 pm, with Iain Britton, Alistair Paterson, Andrew Fagan, Janet Charman, Anna Rugis, Thomas Mitchell and David Reiter – plus open mike for science fiction poetry, if time permits.

Iain Britton’s fine collection Liquefaction will be launched during these Auckland events.

If you’ve missed the tour, there are a number of ways to buy a copy of the book the Listener recently reviewed so enthusiastically:

  • Directly from me (within NZ). I now have a limited number of copies for sale for $28 plus $2 p&p. If you’d like one, please email senjmito@gmail.com with your address and preferred payment method, and we’ll take it from there.
  • From an increasing range of bookshops. Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), Bruce MacKenzie Books in Palmerston North, Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch, and the University Book Shop in Dunedin all have copies, or can take your order if stock has run out.
  • From the publisher.
  • From Amazon.com (in paperback and Kindle e-book formats).
  • From Fishpond.
  • From New Zealand Books Abroad.

The Voyagers Book Tour Of New Zealand

This is a post for New Zealand Speculative Fiction Blogging Week, though I’m pushing it a bit because it’s really about speculative poetry.

With the lights barely down on Fantastic Voyages, it’s time to announce the next bit of book promotion I’m going to be involved in — although I am not responsible for organising it, which is a mercy.

Interactive Publications, the publishers of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, which I co-edited with Mark Pirie, are organising a book tour for it, and for their other titles by New Zealand authors (such as Liquefaction by Iain Britton). Not all the dates and details are finalised yet, but here’s what we have so far:


Dunedin Library from 5:30 pm on Wednesday 14 Oct
Circadian Rhythm Café from 7 pm on Thursday 15 Oct


Madras Café from 5pm on Friday 16 Oct


Wellington Library, 5:30pm on Monday 19 Oct

(Note: this is a couple of hours before Helen Rickerby is the guest reader at that night’s New Zealand Poetry Society meeting. Make a poetry night of it!)

Kapiti Library, 5:30pm on Tuesday 20 Oct

21st: Other North Island events


Auckland City Library, 5:30? pm on Thursday 22 Oct
Depot Arts Gallery, Devonport, 6:30pm on Saturday 24 Oct

PLEASE NOTE: Details are subject to change without notice, although I’ll keep this list as current as I can.

The events are concentrated on the venues where there are substantial numbers of Voyagers poets available to read, but there are two tantalising days between the Wellington and Auckland events. If anyone thinks that a Voyagers event might be a starter in their town on those days, please get in touch a.s.a.p. and I’ll pass this on to Interactive Publications.

I am taking a week off work to go on the South Island leg of the tour, and will also be at the Wellington event. I’d love to accompany the whole tour, but family and work commitments won’t allow that this time.

An Interview with Iain Britton

Iain Britton had his first collection of poems, Hauled Head First into a Leviathan, which was a Forward Poetry Prize nomination, published by Cinnamon Press (UK) in February 2008. Interactive Press (Australia) is about to publish his second collection, Liquefaction.

Iain, let’s start with Liquefaction, your new collection. What would you like readers of this blog to know about it?

Liquefaction is a collection of 35 poems following no specific theme, although I would like to think my work does have connecting lines of thought that can be identified when one reads through it. Each poem should be approached as a portal for the eyes to ‘walk’ into, for the reader to pass through and hopefully experience something different and then elicit pictures, images, word associations that they will find interesting.

The collection will be released on 15 May and is available through www.amazon.com or it can be ordered directly through Interactive Publications – www.ipoz.biz/Store/poetry.htm.

At the moment, my understanding is that the collection will be launched in New Zealand in July 2009, when Interactive Press will also be promoting two other NZ publications – Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, editors Mark Pirie and Tim Jones, plus The World Cup Baby by Euan McCabe. I presume the three books will then be available in bookshops in New Zealand.

You have been extensively published overseas, and your previous collection, Hauled Head First into a Leviathan, was published by Cinnamon Press in the UK and nominated for the Forward Poetry Prize for Best First Collection. Have you published primarily overseas by choice, or is that just how things worked out?

As a poet, I enjoy the challenge of publishing offshore and watching how my poems are accepted or rejected and also observing how NZ poetry is generally received overseas. We have many fine poets pushing their poems around the world and it’s great to see we are prepared to promote this aspect of our culture internationally. It’s a huge and essential learning curve to try and stand beside the best poets in the UK and US and elsewhere. I see everything ‘right’ in that.

How long have you been writing poetry, and what motivated you to start?

I have been writing poetry seriously since my first NZ publication in 2000. Prior to that I had a long haul through years of writing – completing 5 very unpublishable novels, all now consigned to some bin. I also had a number of years spent writing plays in the UK. I really enjoyed writing plays and even had the audacity to try to get major repertory theatres to accept them … of course, they didn’t! However, poetry has always been a real life force within me, so it was only a matter of time till mind, body and soul coalesced and began pushing the pen with a degree of success.

Can you identify poets, or poetic movements, that have influenced your own poetry, and if so, who or what are these?

Learning to be a good poet requires total commitment and an inner sense of belief in oneself, that this is what you want to do, combined with a feeling of allowing yourself to be driven by it. I have had the privilege of seeing/hearing such great poets as Thom Gunn, WH Auden, Robert Lowell, Octavio Paz, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Robert Graves and many others during years spent in London. It is also where I first heard Fleur Adcock read her poetry. Once I had decided that poetry was what I wanted to do, I was hooked.

My reading has been wide and varied and I have involved myself in most movements of one sort or another. The Americans of the middle and latter part of the 20th Century impressed me with their willingness to experiment and push literary boundaries. Many poets have influenced my writing over the years and each one has contributed to my ability as a poet eg T S Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Rae Armantrout, Robert Creeley, Seamus Heaney, John Ashbery, August Kleinzahler, Charles Bernstein, Jorie Graham, the NZ poets Allen Curnow, James Baxter, Hone Tuwhare, Bill Manhire and so on. Even the great Romantics have a place in my learning. Perhaps, my small knowledge of Te Reo and Tikanga Maori and all they entail has been vital to the sounds and rhythms of my writing also.

Consequently, you can see the field of influence is huge and those groups of individuals associated with poetic movements are part and parcel of this learning process too.

Your poem “Departing Takaparawha” is included in the forthcoming anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand. Do you write much poetry that falls within the “speculative poetry” genres (science fiction, fantasy, horror), or were your submissions to that anthology fairly much a one-off?

This is an interesting question for me to answer as my poetry probably does at times verge on the fantastic. For many poets the metaphor is an integral literary device and this can lead to highly imaginative pieces of work. My poetry could be said to tend towards the surreal sometimes. It is open to many interpretations but I don’t write with any exclusive kind of poetical form in mind.

Do you regard yourself as an “Auckland poet”, or is it simply the case that you are a poet who lives in Auckland? Is there such a thing as a distinctively Auckland poet, and if so, what makes an Auckland poet distinctive?

My sister-in-law, who is based in the UK, once asked me a similar type of question after a poetry reading I had given at the London School of Economics a few years ago – whether I considered myself a poet (for everyone) or a NZ poet. My answer was ‘a poet first and foremost’. This applies also to the idea of being an Auckland poet or not. I don’t think of boundaries when it comes to poetry. Although I am aware of these city differences, I don’t particularly espouse to any of them. Good poetry should cross borders and touch hearts regardless.

Do you enjoy performing your poetry, and are you planning launches, readings and so forth to mark the publication of Liquefaction?

Yes, I enjoy the challenge of reading my work, rather than performing it. Reading is never easy. The inner voices are an interesting mob to deal with when you stand and deliver. They determine the sound, rhythm and nuances and I feel I must do justice to the poem that has been channeled through me. It is a big responsibility to get it right. But that is what being a poet is all about for me.

I hope to promote my poetry collection with readings at the launches, which are to be in July. The timing will be important to enable this to happen. As yet, I have no dates, but I know Interactive Publications are well into the planning stages.

On a final note relating to Liquefaction, I wish to express my gratitude and thanks to Gretchen Albrecht, for providing the incredible cover image from Chorus 2008.

Go You Good Things: Several Congratulations and a Writing Workshop


Congratulations are in order: plenty of them. If I’ve forgotten someone who deserves congratulations, please let us all know in the comments!

So, congratulations to:

A Workshop

In association with ConScription, the 2009 New Zealand Science Fiction Workshop, comes …

The Writers’ Workshop of Unusual Length

featuring Julie E. Czerneda with Nalini Singh

Auckland, New Zealand, 27 to 29 May 2009, 8.30am to 5.00pm every day

This three-day workshop is about writing in general, not just SF&F — the lessons contained therein apply to all genres. There are a limited number of seats, so get in fast.

“My approach to working with other writers is simple: how can I help them with the creative process? I don’t critique what they’ve done. I don’t feel it’s useful to the writer once I’m gone, unless I happen to be that writer’s editor. What is useful is encouraging self confidence and providing tools to create more and better work. The activities I run make them write in ways most will never have imagined: out loud, with strangers, and quickly. I guarantee they’ll have fun. So will I. They’ll come away with new ideas and knowledge. They’ll realize they can make changes and choices, and know how to talk about their work with others. I want writers to leave my workshops invigorated, enthused, and ready to succeed no matter what they want to write or what they’d like to accomplish with their writing. The creative process should be a joy (as well as work) and those with the courage to attempt it nourished as much as possible.” —Julie Czerneda

“This workshop is structured and designed to take the participant from idea generation right through to sale of story. I have the outline in my hot little hand and am convinced that the three days will be well worth the investment for anyone who takes their writing seriously.” —Kevin G. Maclean

Bring pen and paper, or a laptop.

The Tutors

Julie E. Czerneda is the author of more than ten science fiction novels, and is the editor of several young adult science fiction anthologies. She has run many writers’ workshops for adult and teenage writers, and is currently a consultant for the Canadian Government on Science Fiction in Education. For more information about Julie and her works, go to www.czerneda.com.

Nalini Singh is the author of over ten romance and paranormal novels, and several novellas and short stories. She has given many talks on the process of writing, and has appeared at many romance writers’ conferences. For more information about Nalini and her works, go to www.nalinisingh.com.

The Essential Details

When: 3 days, Wednesday – Friday, 27 – 29 May, 8.30 am–5.00 pm

Where: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Corner Kirkbride & Ascot Roads, Mangere

Cost: $150.00 pp for the course (parking onsite $5 per day, payable to the hotel). Lunch not included

Bring: pen & paper or laptop

Places: Limited to 24 participants

Go to: www.conscription.co.nz/ConScription/registration.htm for the registration form .


There’s only a limited number of seats, so if you’re interested in attending, please register as soon as possible. If the workshop is overbooked, you’ll be placed on a waiting list in order of registration, and contacted if a seat opens up. You can register for the workshop by the same form as for the convention: for either alone, or for both together. For details, please see the registration page. Payment is expected along with the registration. It will be returned in full if you cancel by 30 April.