What I’ll Be Doing This Summer – Raising the Roof results

the-arts-poetry-by-alfonse-muchaMany thanks to all those who took part in the polls about what sorts of things you’d like me to teach over summer. I’ve learned a couple of things, which I will share with you, oh gentle readers.

  1. Don’t ever ask a question without being fully ok with recieving every one of the possible answers. Giving the option of saying “doesn’t appeal” made perfect sense when I put the polls together. I hadn’t quite factored in my own reaction to seeing that response come up as often as it did. A little part of me started whimpering like a puppy beside a slowly spreading puddle.
  2. There is very little demand for a whole day on Reading for Writing. This was the only class which had more people saying Hell No than Yes Please. Almost twice as many. In fact you could take any other two options and add their “doesn’t appeal” numbers together, and still not beat that score. The whimpering puppy has been joined by a kitten in a boot.
  3. Don’t expect to get a lot of help in making the decsions. Other than a reasonably strong desire to attend Poetic Turns in January, you didn’t really give me much guidance. The only other thing I can gather is that you’ve all got other plans for February 3rd. The kitten’s boot has just fallen over. Into the puddle.
  4. It’s all up to you, Captain. Whatever I choose, it’ll please and disappoint a similar number of people. So I simultaneously can’t win, but also can’t lose. In which case, I may as well please myself. (But not do Option 4. Sigh!) So … the boot turns out to be waterproof, and the kitten leaps to dry ground.

So we will be having a two-day Poetic Turns class on January 20th and 21st. That one should make quite a few of you happy. The February classes are going to be two one-off, single-day writing workshops. I won’t repeat material, so you can come to either Saturday, or Sunday, or both. Why two single-days, rather than one two-day? Because I want to thow it open to as many people as possible, and this way I’m not ruling out anyoe who works on Saturdays! It gives me the maximum amount of flexibility, and means we can spend a decent chunk of time on each exercise. (Just imagine: half an hour of writing time, rather than fifteen to twenty minutes … you won’t know what to do with yourselves!)

I don’t yet have the costs completely worked out, but will try to get funding to keep them down to something manageable. So stay tuned. Or if you already know that you plan to come, send me an email to enroll yourself! (And if you aren’t on my class mailing list but would like to be, send me an email!)


Raising (money for) the Roof Summer Poetry workshops

As the year turns inexorably towards the languid months of late Spring and Summer, I have some good news, some bad news, and some very good news. All depending on how you feel about the prospect of coming to a poetry workshop!

The bad news is that I have to reroof my house.
The good news is that I am going to be holding four days’ worth of poetry workshops in late January/early February to ease the financial pain a little. (And to keep me out of the way.)
The very good news is that the wonderful people at The Laboratory in Lincoln are happy to let me have the Classroom again at a very good rate. Hooray!

The dates in question are two weekends: January 20th and 21st, and February 3rd and 4th. We’ll run from 11am to 5 pm, with the extremely pleasant bonus of having good food, coffee, and beer on site. Short of getting a masseuse in as well, I don’t think it could shape up any better!

I’m still kicking around ideas for what the focus of each session will be, not to mention numbers, cost, other funding etc. Then there’s the structure. Two two-day workshops? One two-day intensive plus two single-day classes? Or four entirely separate classes? I’m open to suggestions, particularly from those of you who plan to come. (Maybe some of you Dark Feathered Art followers from outside Canterbury might fancy a weekend break?)

I’ve set up a poll at the bottom of this post, so anyone wanting to drop a pebble in the vote bucket can make themselves heard. I can’t guarantee that I’ll go with the will of the people entirely, but I will certainly take it into account. Feel free to leave suggestions, or ask questions.

Some Options.

  1. Poetic Turns. I ran this one as a five-session class back in May last year, and it went really well. There were some gob-smackingly good poems produced. I’d like to offer this one as a two-day intensive, probably covering some of the same things that we looked at then, but also some of the other types of turn that we didn’t get to. The blurb:Why do poems change course? And how do they do it? What can you add to a poem by leaping off in another direction? Based on the book Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns by Michael Theune, this class will examine ways that poems can weave in extra levels of complexity, and prompt us to open our work up to new possibilities.
  2. Poetic Endings. Quite a staple, this one. I first ran it as a double-header in Summer 2012, where we looked at The End of the Poetic Line and The End of The Poem. Linebreaks one day, and poetic closure the next. I also ran the Linebreaks class on its own in Jluy 2014. This would be another possible two-day class. Or a single day, focusing just on linebreaks. The blurb: Arguably one of the most fundamental aspects of poetry, linebreaks are also one of the most neglected. Why do poets break lines? What sorts of linebreaks are there? What effect do they have on the poem? And how about the poem as a whole? Do you tie up all the loose ends, or leave things open? What makes a poem end, rather than just … stop?
  3. Revisioning the Poem. Think of it as the free-spirited companion to Editing 101. A new class, exploring different strategies for shaking up a ‘stuck’ poem. Bring along a poem that you’ve given up on, or that doesn’t seem to be working, and see what we can do with a bit of lateral thinking. (And coloured pens. And glue sticks.) I’ll be drawing quite heavily on techniques from books like Wingbeats and Wingbeats II (both fantastic books) as well as other things I’ve picked up over the years. A single day class.
  4. Introduction to Reading for Writing. A one day class looking at my go-to option: Reading for Writing. A chance for people to come and see what it’s all about as a concept. One poem, multiple ways. Start by doing a close reading; really pulling the poem apart and seeing what’s going on inside. Then moving on to writing exercises – I always say you can apply loads of different strategies to one poem to generate dozens of new pieces, so this would be a chance to show that in action. (We do have this sometimes, when I have a Free-for-all session. Good fun!) A single day class.
  5. Poetry Writing Workshop. Aka,“Jump Start-the-Muse”. A day of wall-to-wall writing exercises. Possibly with some free writing time, and maybe then some critique provided at the end of the day. Or not. A single day class, or a two-day. Either would work.
  6. Editing Masterclass. This one is a bit trickier, because it would have to be more restricted in numbers. (Which in turn will push the cost up, but we can worry about that later.) I ran this one very many years ago, at a private house. Essentially walking participants through the (somewhat insanely detailed) way I go about editing my poems for a book. (Well, the series of steps I used for The Summer King, and then when I edited Helen Bascand’s Nautilus for her.) Definitely not for the faint-hearted, as it is pretty brutal. In theory you wouldn’t have to submit a poem to the process in order to attend, but I would need at least a couple of people to take that leap. Say four to six victims poems and a handful of onlookers perhaps? Could be a single day, or two, depending on the number of poems.
  7. Introduction to Writing Poetry. Leaping to the other extreme, an introductory class for people who want to take the plunge into writing poetry, and fancy spending time learning some of the ins and outs of it with others of a similar level. Low on theory (although hopefully some of the technical stuff will slip in without frightening anyone), high on fun and games. Maybe even something to restrict to newbies only? (Much as I love all of you who are my regulars, en masse you can be a bit intimidating to those who haven’t done this sort of thing before.) Just a single day, this one.

So there you have it. A suite of possibilities. Feel free to offer comments, and if you think you’d like to take part, use the polls and comments section to add your opinion to the mix. I willl apply for funding to keep the costs as low as reasonably possible, but if I have a vague idea of likely numbers it will put me in a better position to draft a budget and so on.

Where there are four dates to choose from, I’ve let you pick two options. (I know some people can do Sundays for example, but not Saturdays.) For the two-day classes, you just get the one vote: the January dates, the February dates, yes to either, or none at all. If you don’t mind what date, go with the “any/either date” option. The ”doesn’t appeal” option is there so that those of you who definitely want to come to something can let me know which classes are and aren’t pushing your buttons. Who knows – if enough people wanted one class, but were split across two dates, I could even run it twice. So think about what appeals, what doesn’t and cast your vote accordingly!

What classes should I run at The Lab this summer?

CPC Spring 2017 Poetry in Performance 

It’s that time again – Spring, the season of rain, daffodils, blackbirds fighting, lambs gambolling, bud burst, and weekly evictions of starlings from my roof space. And most of all, time for the annual Canterbury Poets’ Collective Poetry in Performance readings. Hooray!

For anyone who hasn’t been before, it’s the longest-running poetry readings series in New Zealand. Each session begins with an Open Mike, where anyone who fancies it can put their name down and read a poem. Could be a poem of your own, or a piece by someone else you really like – whatever you fancy. The range of subjects and levels is positively mind-bending, and it’s a really great, supportive atmosphere. With an extra bit of incentive: we all get to vote fo our favourite of the Open Mike readers, and the winners from each night get to come back and be guest readers for the final evening!

That takes care of the first half of the session. After a short break, it’s the turn of the guest readers. There’s almost always one reader from out of town, and two local poets. Very often one of the locals will be an emerging poet, possibly someone who first showed up at the open mike. (It happened to me!) The whole thing usually wraps up around 8.30, but there’s generally a bit of meeting-and-mingling afterwards. All for a measley $6 a session. Bargain!

And who might the guests be for this year?

27th September: David Eggleton, John Newton, Ray Shipley
4th October: Riemke Ensing, Frankie McMillan, Ben Brown
11th October: Airini Beautrais, Andrew Paul Wood, Claire Thompson
18th October: Chris Tse, Teoti Jardine, Nod Ghosh
25th October: CK Stead, Rodney Foster, Diana Deans
1st November: Lynley Edmeades, Christina Stachurski, Victoria Broome
8th November: Ingrid Horrocks, Phoebe Wright, poets from the Hagley Writers’ Institute
15th November: Michelle Leggott, and the best of the Open Mike poets.

It once again takes place in the Imagetech Lecture Theatre at Ara (formerly Christchurch Polytechnic) on Madras Street. Super easy to find: go in through the main doors from the carpark, sashay briefly along the right corridor, and it’s the first door. Look, here’s a map:


If you’d like a copy of the poster for yourself, clicking on this link should take you to a downloadable pdf version. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to do some reading practice.

Judge? Mental.

Here we are, beginning the long slide into winter, and in a clever attempt to keep warm I’m donning my best wig and doing another stint of judging. Two stints, in fact: judging the Junior Poetry Competition for the New Zealand Poetry Society, and the Jean Ruddenklau Poetry Trophy for the South Island Writers’ Association.

I judged the adult haiku section for the NZPS back in 2011 (and blogged extensively about it – starting here), and the Jean Ruddenklau for SIWA back in 2013 (you can read about that one here), so it’s fair to say that I’ve got a good idea of what to expect. As, more importantly, have these two fine – and, may I add, extremely discerning – organisations. Should be a lot of fun!

One small worry. Checking my calendar, I have a suspicion that both lots of judging will be taking place at around the same time – June/July. Which is also when I’m teaching … um …

Coffee? Lots of? And keep me away from matches, knives, alcohol and anyone with a heart condition?


Hooray for Rattle (without the Shake and Roll)

Confetti By nathanmac87A lovely bit of news – I’ve been selected as the Editor’s Choice in the latest iteration of the Rattle Monthly Ekphrastic Challenge! Hooray!

And what makes it even sweeter is that it was the first poem I managed to write this year, so I’m choosing to take it as an omen of Good Writing to Come.

I’d come across the competition a month or so earlier, while perusing listings on Duotrope as part of my vow to Be Good and Get More Poems Out There. I’ve got a couple of ekphrastic poems that have yet to find their home, so that was part of my searching. Rattle is one of those magazines that’s been on my radar for quite a while, so I leaped at the chance. I had a read through previous winners, and really liked what I saw. A mixture of formal and free, a huge range of styles and themes. And there are actually two winners each month: an Editor’s Choice and an Artist’s choice, which seemed like a really nice approach – both parties are coming at the question of which poem to choose from different angles, and it’s been fascinating to see the differences between the two selections in past competitions.

“Reloj de cuco” by ArchivaldoMy (likely-to-be-broken-but-hey-why-not-at-least-try) resolution for this year is to try and write a poem for each monthly chllenge. I’m sure I won’t manage it (and probably shouldn’t enter again, at least for a little while), but it’s a good thing to aim at.

In the case of this poem, I played around with various Ekphrastic and/or photo-based exercises for a bit, but wasn’t sure what the tone was going to be. (I did, at one stage, have it beginning “Come, all ye people of San Francisco, and see /…”) What eventually gave me the way in to the poem was a bit of research on the etymology of the word calendar:

calendar: Middle English from Latin kalendarium; “moneylender’s account book”,  from kalendae “calends”, the first day of each month, when accounts were traditionally settled.

coin hoard aSo it would seem that the idea of time being money has always been around.

This got me thinking about the way that we talk about time – we spend it, we waste it, we wish we had more. And how the passage of time is represented – leaves turning colour, falling leaves, pages fluttering, wrinkles and aging, and dust accumulating … I began to see the woman in the picture as some kind of magician, pulling extra time out of the air and trying to hang on to it by pinning it to her clothes. (Go have a look at the image yourself on the website – I’m not sure about the copyright issues of my attaching it to this page directly, so go and have a look. I’ll wait.)

I also had a lot of fun trying to work out what coin to use – florin was the placeholder, but krugerrand is perfect, both in sound and sense. (For those who don’t know and don’t want to go looking – it’s a bullion coin, something created to be a investment, not ever currency. Ultimate bling. And for my generation at least, the association of krugerrands with apartheid also adds an element of suspect morality which I enjoyed echoing in the bankers reference).

I originally had the poem ending with the first line, but I kept stumbling back to it. So eventually I gave in, and had to wrack my brains for a new way to end the flipping thing. (Always tricky when you’re working on a lyric – rather than narrative – poem. The story is no help to you.) I think I managed to get the ending at around 11 pm on the night before it had to be in.

Jokes aside, I really am thrilled about this. I liked the poem, but although it got positive – and slightly solicitous – responses from my husband and crit group (not the same thing), I wasn’t sure it would work for other people as well. I don’t write lyric poems very often. And I was waaay too close to this one to be able to judge it yet – forget about nine months in the bottom drawer, this one barely got nine minutes. So Tim’s enthusiastic response was gratifying and reassuring in equal measure.

Moral of the story: try, even if you don’t have high expectations, because the muse may just be watching …