I recently read at Te Papa as part of the annual Writers on Mondays series for the Best New Zealand Poems 2010 reading. I read with 9 other poets, some of whom I am a big fan of and one of whom was a lecturer of mine at Canterbury University. I ended up reading The Totally Artificial Heart by Kate Camp. I had five poems I was attempting to choose from on the day. I was experiencing a little doubt about the one I wanted to read. The moment I knew I was going to be reading I wanted to read Kate Camp's poem. But I was sure it would be weird to read it with the poet watching me. I trawled through book after book looking for the right poem. So many poems I like have rude words in them or are a bit depressing for a Monday lunch time. The rest had words I didn't trust myself to pronounce under pressure or were simply too long. Just as I got up to read I decided and left the other books behind.
It did feel a bit weird reading a poem by someone who was also reading. But I sucked it up and got to read one of my favourite poems with the author in the room. That's pretty cool if you ask me.
It was a really enjoyable reading. Hinemoana Baker read a great poem I'd read before but can no longer remember the writer or the name of the poem. I will have to chase that up because it was political and funny. Anna Jackson read in a rather amazing manner, harnessing nervous energy and using it admirably. Geoff Cochrane read a David Mitchell poem by heart. It was so lovely to hear a poem read by heart. I should do more of that. Jennifer Compton read her excellent and hilarous poem which made the audience laugh out loud many times. She's another great reader. I feel like she's telling stories rather than reading poems, but at the same time her language and poetic style is clever and often catches me unawares. The reading was a feast and I felt very lucky to be a part of it. It was also a bit of a treat to have Bill Manhire introduce me.
I've got a few other sessions I'm planning to go to from the Writers on Mondays series. It looks like there's some great stuff in there!
In other writing news I'm doing my best to get Enamel out ASAP. I won't go into the details of the whys and the issues. I will say that this will be the last Enamel. Head on over to the Enamel blog to see a bit more about it. At this stage it looks to be a Spring arrival. There's some great stuff in there and I can't wait to get it out so all the writers with work inside it can see their words on its pages.
I'm in the midst of reading Anna Jackson's Thicket. It's a lovely book. I'm really liking what Anna is doing in it. I've been thinking a lot about how poetry collections are put together and how they stand up or fall over. At the DCM bookfair this year I was very lucky to pick up a lot of relatively recent New Zealand poets' work. Some of it is fabulous and some of it is not to my taste. All of it has been helpful in this thinking about books and how to write them. One of my favourites so far (which isn't recent) is a 1988 Rachel McAlpine collection. Not only is it a beautiful object, there's some lovely work in there.
I still have to admit to being slightly bewildered about books I might write. I love the books of people who are not me. Beside my bed is a towering pile of poetry and fiction that I fall in and out of. But books I might write? Well I'm not sure. When Bill Manhire introduced me at the reading he intimated that a book should really be forthcoming from me soon. We'll see what happens.