Tuesday Poem: The White Stripes, by Mark Pirie


The White Stripes, man, they just come to play.
  No set list. Anything can happen.
They create, don’t need to fabricate.
Red, black and white; they come to play.
  Meg and Jack. Anything can happen
With Jack’s old guitars; hard to tune in.
The White Stripes, man, they just come to play.

  They create, don’t need to fabricate.

(After watching the film, Under Great White Northern Lights, dir. Emmett Malloy, 2010)

Credit note: “The White Stripes” is a new poem by Mark Pirie, and is published here by permission of the author.

Tim says: Ever since I’ve known Mark – and that has been 15 years now – music has been a big part of his life, and that’s been reflected in his poetry. His impressive list of publications includes a number of books and broadsheets on or inspired by music and musicians, so I thought this triolet in honour of Meg and Jack White made a nice appetiser for my interview with Mark, which will run later this week.

The Tuesday Poem: You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog – the hub poem in the middle of the page, and all the other poems in the sidebar on the right.

Out Of It No Longer Out Of Print

In November 2010, I blogged about Michael O’Leary’s cricket novel Out of It in the context of NZ cricket poetry anthology A Tingling Catch.

At the time, I said that Out Of It was out of print. The good news is that now it’s available from Amazon as a Kindle ebook. You can find out more about it, and about Michael’s many other books, at Michael O’Leary’s new site – and Mark Pirie has a comprehensive new site as well.

While we’re on the topic of new sites, check out my new Amazon.com author page – there will be a UK version along in due course.

Tuesday Poem: Baxter Between the Wickets, by Michael O’Leary

Tim says: This week, I’ve chosen an anthologised poem that is also part of a novel. Confused? You won’t be…

A Tingling Catch

“Baxter Between the Wickets” is one of several poems by Michael O’Leary in the excellent anthology A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie, which was launched at the Long Room of the Basin Reserve, the test cricket ground in Wellington, on Sunday. I had the great pleasure of reading my poem Swing at the launch.

I was going to spend some time telling you how good A Tingling Catch is – starting with this cover painting of the Basin Reserve by Jocelyn Galsworthy, who, I think it’s safe to say, is the world’s leading cricket artist, and continuing with the selection of poems (mine, of course, modestly excluded!).

But now I don’t have to say how good it is, because Graham Beattie has done so admirably on Beattie’s Book Blog.

Out of It

So let’s move on to the book from which this poem is extracted. Out of It (Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 1987) is presently out of print, but Michael is planning to reprint it in 2011 – and if you can’t wait till then, the entire text of the novel is available online. I read Out of It recently, and enjoyed it very much.

The frame of this novel-with-poems is a cricket match at Eden Park between the “Out of It XI” and New Zealand. The two XIs are:


1) Dipak Patel Jimi Hendrix

2) Ken Rutherford Monk Lewis

3) John Wright (V.C.) Te Rauparaha (C)

4) Martin Crowe Oscar Wilde

5) Jeff Crowe Jim Morrison

6) Jeremy Coney (C) Alfred Jarry

7) Richard Hadlee Janice Joplin

8) Ian Smith Bob Marley (V.C.)

9) John Bracewell Herman Goering

10) Lance Cairns Lord Byron

11) Ewen Chatfield James Joyce


12) Martin Sneddon James K. Baxter

Baxter, then, is on the field as a runner for an injured Jim Morrison, and “Baxter Between the Wickets” represents his thoughts as he is called through for three runs by Te Rauparaha, the “Out of It XI” captain. Michael tells me that the “Colin” of the poem is Colin Durning, an old friend of both James K. Baxter and Michael O’Leary.

Baxter Between the Wickets

Morrison hit Chatfield down to deep cover and sent Hemi, grey-hair, grey-beard flying like sails, off for a run. The chief ran like the wind so that Baxter, who was obviously the least fit of the two, was stretched to the limit but made it home for three runs.

“Ha Ha! I bet that got the old cogs in the wheels turning, John. I thought the old guru of the New Jerusalem was struggling a bit there.”

“Yes Dennis, but he made it and his thinking must be matching his physical triumph at this moment.”

Man! He has called me again
From that place inside me – the unworthy

Servant! He called me three times
When I, in my mortal dung heap mind

Would have settled for one
And all the lice in my beard jumped out

For fear of this terrible century’s (looming) speed
Who will torment me now, at night

Who will remind me of Him –
And sin! Which this mad old devil

Commits with every eyelid bat, every thought
Kei te Rangitira o te ngati porangi, ahau –

I stand at the end of the crease Colin
Knowing He only wants what He knows I can do

This poem, and the text which immediately precedes it, is taken with permission from Michael O’Leary’s 1987 novel Out of It.

Finally, this poem also ties back to my post from early October responding to Scott Baxter’s query about the influence of James K. Baxter on New Zealand poetry. Here, that influence is alive and well, if not incredibly happy at having been called through for more than a single!

You can check out all of the Tuesday Poems at the Tuesday Poem Blog.

That Tingling Feeling

How To Order A Tingling Catch

I had hoped to do a full past about A Tingling Catch, the newly-published anthology of New Zealand cricket poems edited by Mark Pirie, but time has slipped away. I still hope to write that post next week, but in the meantime, I can let you know that A Tingling Catch is an excellent collection which libraries and cricket fans alike should make sure they have.

A Tingling Catch has its own blog, and Mark has now put up a post on How Do I Order A Tingling Catch? It’s worth checking out.

Helen Lowe’s Aus/NZ F&SF Author Series

To celebrate the Aus/NZ publication of her new novel The Heir of Night, Helen Lowe asked a number of Australian and New Zealand fantasy and science fiction authors (plus Julie Czerneda, a Canadian author with strong Aus/NZ connections) to contribute to a series of guest posts on her blog on why they love fantasy and/or SF.

The series as a whole makes fascinating reading. My own contribution, on J. G. Ballard, Kim Stanley Robinson and pitching a tent in the wide space between, was picked up and republished on the big US blog io9, which was a nice bonus for both Helen and myself.

Tuesday Poem: Swing


I’m left arm over
I’m the new red ball
I’m the prodding by the batsman
at the green and sweating pitch.

I’m two slips and a gully
I’m a short square leg
I’m the keeper standing back
and the umpire’s call of “Play”.

I’m the short strides then the long
the rock back and the gather
I’m the front foot thudding down
as the ball departs my hand.

I’m the seam proudly upright
I’m the late movement in
I’m the bat that is nowhere
as the ball hits the pad.

I’m the turn to the umpire
the scream of an appeal
I’m the slowly rising finger
and the batsman’s long walk back.

I’m the hugs I barely feel
as I focus on the moment
when for one ball I decoded
the mysteries of swing.

Tim says: “Swing” is my contribution to the new anthology ‘A Tingling Catch’: A Century of NZ Cricket Poems 1864-2009, edited by Mark Pirie (HeadworX, 2010). I’ve read the anthology, and it’s very good.

Technical note: Before the physics majors who haunt these poetry blogs start commenting on it: yes, I realise the ball won’t swing if the seam is precisely upright, as claimed in Stanza 4, and that the seam should be slanted slightly to the right if the bowler wants to create inswing, and to the left if the bowler wants to create outswing, unless the ball is roughed up enough to reverse-swing, in which case those directions should be reversed. But that would have taken a lot of extra stanzas to explain. What am I, a coaching manual?

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

Voyagers Gets A Great First Review

The Wellington launch of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand is next Monday at the New Zealand Poetry Society meeting, Thistle Inn, 7.30pm. The wonderful Meliors Simms passed on to me the first review of Voyagers, and I’m so happy with it that I’ve reproduced it below.

Review of Voyagers from Star*Line, Journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, May/June 2009, p. 19. Reviewed by Edward Cox.

Science fiction is a fertile ground for poetry. As easily as snapping fingers, it seems, imagery and ideas can kick the thought processes of readers into overdrive. The very mention of words like ‘galaxy’, ‘sky’, ‘Earth’, and ‘alien’, ‘robot’, ‘human’, can fill the imagination with all kinds of possibilities. With Voyagers, editors Mark Pirie and Tim Jones have gathered together some of New Zealand’s finest poets to compile a collection that shows us all why the realm of science fiction poetry knows no bounds.

The book is divided into six parts, with titles drawn from popular culture: “Back to the Future”, “Apocalypse Now”, “Altered States”, “ET”, “When Worlds Collide” and “The Final Frontier”. As these titles suggest, each part comes at science fiction from a different angle. In the introduction, the editors acknowledge that there is no universal definition for the genre, and with this in mind, all the poems herein are thought provoking, enigmatic and entertaining.

Janet Charman’s “in your dreams” is a nice reminder of where we are, and that all the poems in the book are by Girls and Boys from New Zealand. “Einstein’s Theory Simply Explained” by David Gregory is anything but simple, while Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s “Looking at Kapiti” uses classic literature and Maori history to describe the destruction of an island. Without doubt, the most humorous poem of the collection is “Tabloid Headlines” by Helen Rickerby. This one is a list of headlines, which sometimes invert expectancies or carry quotes that will have you chuckling long after reading. The best headline, perhaps, is of the woman who walked on water, who then explained, “No I’m not the messiah, I’m just very clever.”

My favourite poem in Voyagers is also the very last poem in the book. “Space & Time” by Brian [sic] Sewell returns us to possibilities, fuelling the imagination, the heart of this collection. On one hand, the poem seems to wonder how far the human race can be trusted with space exploration and colonisation, given its history. On the other hand, it is a poem of imagery and ideas, adventure and peril, which opens in the way perhaps all great science fiction should:

a long time ago
in a galaxy far far away
are things that we know
and things that amaze—

Although Voyagers is a strong collection in its entirety, the bok is undoubtedly at its strongest when its source is New Zealand itself, and is often an education. For most, we only know this country from the stunning landscapes Mr Jackson showed us in the “The Lord of the Rings” movies. We tend to forget that New Zealand is a land of diverse cultures, mysticism and deep folklore. Editors Pirie and Jones have produced a collection that is an antidote to ignorance. The authors and their works have tapped into a fertile ground to ensure Voyagers is most worthy of note.

There will be copies of Voyagers available for sale at the meeting, but if you’re not going to be there and would like a copy, you can buy Voyagers from Amazon.com as a paperback or Kindle e-book; New Zealand Books Abroad; or Fishpond. You can also find out more about Voyagers, and buy it directly from the publisher, at the Voyagers mini-site.

UPDATE: My interview on Plains FM with Helen Lowe about Voyagers is now available as a podcast: http://bit.ly/9mxI3 (12 minutes)

Book Review: Tom, by Mark Pirie (Sudden Valley Press, 2009, RRP $29.99)


There is probably no author in the world I am less well qualified to review objectively than Mark Pirie. Mark and I have known each other since the summer of 1996-1997. At that stage, I was working as the Course Materials Editor for the Department of Library and Information Studies at Victoria University, and Mark came to help me out with that job over the summer. At that stage, I was a budding short story writer with a few publications under my belt who wrote the occasional poem, while Mark was a published poet and one of the members of the collective that put together JAAM magazine.

I submitted some poems to JAAM, and had one published in JAAM 6 in February 1997 – I think this was due to its literary merits, rather than to Marks’ employment situation! After that, I was published several more times in JAAM, and subsequently, Mark’s publishing company HeadworX has published my two poetry collections, Boat People and All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens as part of its extensive and excellent poetry list. My first short story collection, Extreme Weather Events, was published as part of HeadworX’s comparatively short-lived Pocket Fiction Series.

Most recently, we’ve collaborated on editing the recently-released anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand.

So, when Mark asked if I would like a review copy of Tom, I was hesitant – not because I thought I wouldn’t enjoy it, but because I wondered whether I could maintain enough distance to write a worthwhile review.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, and I’ve reviewed it. So, caveats and forewarnings aside, here is my review!


Tom is a verse novel, set in Wellington during the mid-1990s. “Tom” is Tom Grant, a student and budding writer whom Mark Pirie identifies, and who self-identifies, as a member of “Generation X”. The verse novel proceeds by a mixture of Tom’s poems, prose poems, and the occasional mock essay. Only a couple of the 70 entries are long, and the book as a whole is an easy, enjoyable read.

Mark Pirie famously identified himself as a member of Generation X, and crystallised Generation X writing in New Zealand, when he edited the Gen X anthology New Zealand Writing: The NeXt Wave (still controversial, and still worth checking out) in 1998. Now, having gone through the whole GenX-student-in-Wellington experience, he is aware of what it has all added up to. His character Tom Grant, living through similar experiences as the book progresses, does not have this awareness. This distance lends the delicious ironies that are especially prevalent in the first 2/3 of the book.

These sections, in particular, are often very funny, as Tom tries and generally fails at love, life and literature. Tom writes an essay on Gerald Manley Hopkins in which draws more comparisons than might be thought humanly possible between Hopkins’ poetry and mid-90s music, most memorably that of Guns’n’Roses; he itemises his wardrobe; he tries his hand at a protest poem. There’s a knowing wink to all this which frequently had me chuckling.

Tom grows up a bit towards the end of the book. He finally gets it on with Kate, the object of his desire; in a memorable “answer poem”, she dissects Tom’s true motives in eight pitiless lines. At last, he has a poem accepted for publication (by an older poet called Jimmy O’Toole, who … well, let’s just say Jimmy reminds me of someone whose name has a similar form). He tries his hand at a long poem, a version of Ginsberg’s “Howl” which doesn’t outshine the original.

The final poem in the book is Tom’s contributor’s note to accompany his first published poem. It ends with the line “but still it’s early days …”. It would be good to see another volume of Tom’s adventures, but the humour and freshness of Tom’s early encounters with the big wide world will be hard to beat.

You should be able to find a copy of Tom in independent bookshops. There was a handsome pile of them in Unity Books, Wellington, the last time I visited.

Tim Jones Goes Viral

I’m going viral, not the blog – I’ve got a cold (I’m confident it’s a cold rather than anything more porcine and sinister, because my partner caught it a few days before me, and she’s getting over it). So instead of another pocket epic, this post is a very quick list of links to interesting things I think you should know about. (I’m infectious, so I’m allowed to be bossy.)

The Quiet World Project: Johanna Knox’s fascinating blog on the future of books, publishing and reading in a changing world.

The Kathleen Grattan Award: This lucrative award for an original collection of poems, or long poem, by a New Zealand poet was won in its inaugural year by Christchurch poet Joanna Preston. The deadline for entries, 31 July, is rolling round. If you’ve got a collection ready to go, I strongly advise you to check this out. (I’m thinking of applying in 2010.)

Anomalous Appetites: Shortly after the release of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand was announced, New Zealand poet and editor John Irvine got in touch to say that he had recently published an illustrated anthology of science fiction poetry, Anomalous Appetites. You can find out all about it, and how to buy it, on John’s website.

broadsheet 3 and Tom: The indefatigable Mark Pirie hasn’t rested on his laurels as co-editor with me of Voyagers. He has just produced Issue 3 of the literary magazine he edits, broadsheet. The centrepiece of this issue is an interview with Robert Creeley, and I’m pleased to say that my poem “Down George Street in the Rain” is also included. The HeadworX website has more information on broadsheet, including how to subscribe. I also have a copy of Mark’s recently-published verse novel Tom, and will be reviewing it here in the not-too-distant future.

Fascinating (?) fact: We recently sold our first copy of Voyagers for the Kindle, Amazon’s e-book reader, so far available only in the USA. At the time of writing, according to the Amazon listing for the Kindle edition of Voyagers, that sale makes Voyagers the 45th most popular poetry anthology available for the Kindle!.

Right, enough of these viral ravings. Goodnight, and good luck!

Voyagers Cover Released, Microsite Up

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry Mark Pirie and I have co-edited, is moving closer to its publication date: we expect it to be available in New Zealand on 1 June.

The publishers, Interactive Publications Ltd (IP) of Brisbane, have now put up both a mini-site and an orders page for the book:

The IP mini-site is now up at: http://ipoz.biz/Titles/Voy.htm

The IP Orders page is: http://ipoz.biz/Store/orders.htm

And here’s the cover. (Voyagers authors: You are welcome to use the cover image on your own blogs and sites, but please also include both the IP links above, and mention when the book will be available in NZ.)

Snippets: Earthdawn Sale; Readings and Launches; Valley Micropress; Likeable Things

Earthdawn 15th Anniversary Sale

This month marks the 15th anniversary of the roleplaying game Earthdawn. To mark the occasion, publishers RedBrick have discounted the prices of Earthdawn products until 4 September, so you can get my novel Anarya’s Secret for a little bit less until then (in hardback, paperback, or e-book via RPGNow or DriveThru).

Readings and Launches

From the social pages: here in Wellington, it’s been the season of readings, launches, and both combined. I wasn’t able to make the launch of Sue Orr’s Etiquette for a Dinner Party: Short Stories, but did attend the Wellington launch of AUP New Poets 3 – Wellingtonian Janis Freegard is one of the three poets included in this volume, together with Katherine Liddy and Reihana Robinson, and Janis ran an enjoyable launch at Mighty Mighty.

I was also an apologetic no-show at the first instalment of the annual Winter Readings Series, which featured the launch of three books by Mark Pirie, including Slips which I reviewed a while back. There’s an excellent report on Helen Rickerby’s blog.

I’ll be there next week, though, when Helen’s new book of poetry My Iron Spine is launched with Harvey Molloy MC’ing, and the following week sees the launch of Michael O’Leary’s Paneta Street.

I’ve had a sneak peek at My Iron Spine, and it’s excellent.

And the launches don’t stop there: Harvey Molloy’s Moonshot is not far away from lift-off!

(Enough capital-centrism: there’s lots of readings and poetry events right round the country, such as Kay McKenzie Cooke reports on from Dunedin.)

Valley Micropress

I took part recently in a Montana Poetry Day event in Upper Hutt, and organiser Tony Chad kindly sent me a copy of the “Poetry Olympics” booklet arising from the event, and also a copy of the magazine he edits, Valley Micropress. This is a monthly – that’s right, monthly – poetry magazine which Tony produces. Subscriptions cost NZ $30 per annum, and contributions are mainly from subscribers, but also include other work at the editor’s discretion. If you’d like to know more, please email Tony, tony.chad (at) clear.net.nz

Likeable Things: Second Instalment

maps, a poem by Jill Jones

The Bibliophilia shop, which sells the handmade books of Meliors Simms

Blackmail Press 22

Strange Horizons

Eating Greengages, a beautiful piece of writing by Fionnaigh McKenzie.

A few things I’ve learned about writing poetry, a very useful and interesting blog post by Janis Freegard.