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?

 

Joanna Preston Interviews … Joanna Preston

from Bosch’s Allegory of IntemperanceToday I’ll be interviewing poet, editor, chicken-lover—

—Er, can we please be clear that that is ‘lover’ in the sense of ‘being very keen on, but not at all in a sexual sense’ please?

Yes, of course. Let me see. Poet, editor, chicken-keeper —is that ok?

Yes, thank you, much better. I already get quite strange spam here, and I really don’t want to think about the sort of things that will turn up if I start talking about my magnificent cock.

Errm …

Rooster. Male hen. He’s quite big. And red.

Shall we move on?

He’s called Lola.

Moving on?

Yes indeed. Please, do go on.

Thank you. Today I am interviewing poet, editor, chicken-keeper, creative writing tutor and masochistic glutton-for-punishment, Joanna Preston. Joanna, good morning.

Good morning, Joanna. Lovely to be here.

Joanna, I understand you were intending to spend the last twelve months finalising the manuscript of your second poetry collection, which I believe was provisionally titled “Janus”. How is it going?

In what sense?

In the sense of ‘how has the progress been’? Do you have a publication date yet?

Not as such, no.

Not finalised?

Not … what’s the opposite of finalised?

Started?

I was thinking more of ‘commenced’, but yes, started.

from Bosch’s Allegory of Intemperance

You haven’t started deciding on a publication date?

No, not as yet. No.

Oh. A publisher delay? – waiting for a suitable publication window, something of that sort?

No … not really, no. Not quite at that stage. No.

So it’s … still in galleys? Finalising design, cover, layout, that sort of thing?

Not … not quite, no.

I think you may have to help me out here. What stage of the publishing process is it at?

What are my options again?

I see. Alright, let’s start small. Is it with a publisher?

That question I can definitely answer.

Great. And the answer is?

No.

No?

No.

I see. And is there a reason for this? In particular? By which I mean, and I don’t mean any sort of disrespect here, have you sent the frigging thing to a publisher yet or not?

Umm, not.

O–kay. Is there a reason for this?

Yes.


And the reason is …?

It isn’t finished.

Ah. I see.
from Bosch’s Allegory of IntemperanceJoanna, I don’t want you to think me unduly confrontational here, but why is it not finished?

That’s a more difficult question to answer. Unless …

Unless …?

Unless you’re satisfied with ‘because’?

Not really, no.

Because of … a number of things?

I’m sure we could go on playing this game for many, many fun-filled, and dare I say, illuminating hours. But I suspect that the people reading this – assuming there are some – have lives of their own, which they are likely to be desirous of returning to. I know I do. So. Once again. What are the main reasons why the book isn’t finished? Do you have the poems written? Edited? Sorted into a running order?

Do feel free to join in the conversation at any time.

(Sigh.) I have enough poems written. I have the basic plan for how they go together sorted out. I am in the process of editing them, but I keep getting distracted.

Ah. Which brings me to my next question. The editing progress is being delayed by ‘distractions’, yes?

Yes. 

And yet I believe you have just accepted what many people would regard as an even greater distraction: the job of Poetry Editor for [name redacted] magazine. Is that correct?

Um, yes.

Some would say that this could be considered an action in direct opposition to your stated goal of completing Janus.

Well, yes, maybe. Sort of. But not necessarily.

Could you be any less clear?

Sadly, yes.

from Bosch’s Allegory of Intemperance

Let’s try ‘more clear’.

It’s a wonderful opportunity. [Name redacted] is a great magazine, one that has been very good to and for me in the past, and it will be my first time working  as an editor where my job is just to edit – no running around doing admin, or chasing printing quotes, or faffing about with layout. Just me, the poets and the poems.

FOMO?

No thanks, I’ve already eaten.

No: FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out. Was that why you said yes? Because you didn’t want to regret saying no?

Maybe a little – if the offer had been to take over in a couple of years, that would have been a no-brainer. As it was, I did have about a month of weighing up the options, trying to weigh the pros and cons.

And what were some of the cons?

Well a fairly major one is that I vastly reduce the number of places where I can submit my own poems. [Name redacted] comes out [also redacted] times a year, so that was easily my best market for publication in New Zealand.

Ah. That is a bit of a bugger. But getting back to Janus – how on earth are you going to manage to find the time to deal with [name redacted], and the seemingly endless drama and distractions of the flock—

We’re back to Lola, aren’t we? He really is lovely.

— and manage to finish Janus?

Well, last year I purged all the distractions I could, and it really didn’t help. Not at all. More distractions, disasters, perturbations and general psychological trauma flooded in to take their place. (Including floods, as it happened.) I’ve come to the conclusion that the level of fluster and chaos in my life is actually some sort of universal constant, and that any attempts I make to reduce things are quickly redressed by the universe piling on great amounts of whatever else is lying around. Peace and quiet doesn’t seem to like spending time with me. I figure I may as well try to see if padding in the maelstrom works any better.

Joanna Preston, you are an idiot.