Tuesday Poem Secret Santa

As things turned out, I didn’t wind up with a Secret Santa partner for the Tuesday Poem – but no matter! Check out all the pairs of poets and poems, plus the hub poem by James Brown chosen by Sarah Jane Barnett, on the Tuesday Poem blog.

It’s been great to be part of the Tuesday Poem this year – so, big thanks to Mary McCallum for organising it. I’ll be back into it next year, until I completely run out of poems…

Tuesday Poem: Tuesdays


On Tuesdays
when we should be making love
we sneak off to the movies instead.

You hold my hand.
I eat an ice-cream
that I don’t need and do not deserve.

It isn’t art: Van Helsing.
Hellboy. Harry Potter 3.
But it’s what you like

and I tag along, looking
for the joins in the CGI
and enjoying this escape

from the sunlit outer world.
Where we blink. We kiss.
Adult again, we go our separate ways.

I couldn’t really pass up an opportunity to go all meta for my second contribution to the excellent Tuesday Poem initiative started by Mary McCallum (check out her blog for the details, including other bloggers taking part – the current list is also at the bottom of this post).

I didn’t write Tuesdays specifically to be a Tuesday Poem – it was first published in the New Zealand Listener on 30 April 2005 and is included in my most recent poetry collection, All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens (see below).

Tuesdays is cheap movies day in Wellington.

If you’d like a copy of All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens, the easiest way is to order one directly from me, via an email to senjmito (at) gmail.com. Within New Zealand, that will cost you $15 including postage & packing. If you’re from overseas, please get in touch and I’ll let you know the total cost.

Till next Tuesday …

Cover image of All Blacks Kitchen Gardens composed and photographed by John Girdlestone.

The Tuesday Poets lineup

NZ poets

claire beynon 
harvey molloy
tim jones
helen heath
helen rickerby
fifi colston 
paradoxical cat
kay mckenzie cooke
penelope todd
cilla mcqueen – nz poet laureate – who posts monday, wednesday, friday

Overseas Poets

Premium T

Tuesday Poem: Shostakovich In America

Shostakovich in America

1959, November. The plumed De Soto
hammers on, freshman driver
burning up the plains.

Freedom! The Kappa Gamma Beta boys
can never catch him now. They’re back east
in the studio, where Ormandy

shrugs and starts recording.
Dmitri has better things to do. This is
his jazz age, his lost weekend.

An upstate college, denuded branches
scrawled across the moon. He nestles
in a co-ed’s bed. Dreams

drag him back to the Kremlin:
always the bottle of Georgian wine,
always the black telephone.

Dawn is coffee, hesitant smiles,
the wordless bond of night
knotting itself into language.

She is summer, America, forgetting.
“You were flailing your arms,”
she says. “Conducting.”

He kisses, disentangles, turns the key.
His car roars over the siloed plains,
eastwards into the morning.

“Shostakovich in America” was originally published in Issue 11 of Bravado magazine, and is one of the poems I plan to include in my forthcoming collection Men Briefly Explained.

Dmitri Shostakovich did visit the USA in 1959, and did record with Eugene Ormandy. The rest is imagined.

Author, poet and blogger Mary McCallum has started an initiative called “Tuesday Poem” on her blog, and suggested that other poets do likewise – posting a poem, by themselves or anothr poet, each Tuesday. I’m not promising to post a poem every Tuesday, but it sounds like a good plan to me for those who can manage this. If that’s you, then go for it – and check out Mary’s blog for news of others who are doing so.

UPDATE: I had a pleasant surprise a day after this Tuesday Poem was published – an email from the editor of the world’s only journal devoted to Dmitri Shostakovich, asking permission to reprint “Shostakovich in America” in the journal, which I was very happy to grant.

I’m beginning to come round to the Tuesday Poem way of thinking…

The MA in Creative Writing: The Controversy Resumes

The Victoria University MA in Creative Writing is an object of desire (for those thinking of applying), hope (for those who have applied), envy, and controversy. It plays such a large part in the New Zealand literary scene, especially in Wellington, that it would be most surprising if this were not the case.

My own feelings about the MA (now joined by a PhD in Creative Writing) are mixed. For the record, I have neither taken, nor applied for, the MA. I have taken two undergraduate creative writing courses at Victoria: a Writing Short Fiction course taught by Robert Onopa in 2000, during which I wrote the first draft of “The Wadestown Shore”, one of the stories in Transported; and the Writing the Landscape course taught by Dinah Hawken, in 2003.

Both courses were valuable, but I have particularly fond memories of Writing the Landscape and of Dinah’s tutelage. About 1/3 of the poems in All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens were written for, or during, that course, and it sparked my most productive period as a poet. (I’m down to about three poems a year now!) So, on the basis of my own experience, I have no reason to think that the MA, being longer, wouldn’t be even better.

The two complaints most commonly made about the Victoria MA (and creative writing MA/MFA programmes in general) is that they lead to work that is written for an audience of one — the assessor — or several — the classmates; and that the products of the course are too homogeneous. The second, if true, may well be an outcome of the first.

I’m aware that many fine books (such as Mary McCallum’s The Blue and Johanna Aitchison’s A Long Girl Ago) have come out of the Victoria MA. In my experience, the books produced are surprisingly diverse. So I’m not too bothered about those issues.

My concern is more about the market power of the Victoria MA and other such courses. Quite apart from the benefits to the participants’ writing, there appears to be a clear commercial benefit to graduating from the Victoria MA. Graduates’ work is more likely to be published in such literary journals as Sport, more likely to be published in book form, more likely to attract Creative New Zealand funding, and more likely to gain literary awards.

Viewed one way, that’s a fair reward from the amount of effort and stress people have to go through to to be accepted for the course, let alone complete it; but from my viewpoint, in such a small literary market as New Zealand, the Victoria MA exerts an undue dominance. The published books of MA graduates are, in my experience, never poor, and often excellent; but what other voices might be heard, what other books might be published and promoted, if the MA did not loom so large?

These musings were sparked off by this post by Joanna Preston on the vexed subject of creative writing courses (and here’s a contrasting viewpoint about the role of the workshop instructor). What do you think? Is the Victoria MA in Creative Writing good, bad, or indifferent for New Zealand writers and New Zealand literature?