Two Interviews: Paula Green and Myles Lawford talk about The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems

Two Interviews: Paula Green and Myles Lawford talk about The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems

The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems

The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems, by Paula Green and Myles Lawford, was voted for by children and young people from all over New Zealand to be a finalist on the children’s choice list in the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Paula Green has worked closely with children in creating her poetry, and it is no wonder that this collection is on the list. Reviewer Tim Gruar says, on the Booksellers NZ blog, ‘There’s a nice collaboration going between author Paula Green and illustrator Myles Lawford in this quirky little collection of onomatopoeic and physical verse.’

This post is part of a blog tour that Booksellers are running for the Children’s Choice finalist list for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Booksellers have given me a copy of The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems to give away – to enter, just leave a comment below!

We put questions to Paula and Myles about how The Letterbox Cat came about. Paula is first up:

1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to put together this collection in particular?

I have been collecting picture poems in notebooks for years and I finally decided it was time to put them in a book. I love using words to make a picture on the page and then to make sure those words sound good. All the other poems arrived by surprise. It might be seeing the crazy way our dog swims or where our cat sleeps. Or the way the sky looks. I just think: that’s a poem! I love using real life and real things in poems as that can make a poem sizzle, but like Margaret Mahy, I also love the power of imagination. Most of all I aim to make a collection that sounds good.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?

Once Scholastic agreed to publish the book (I was over the moon! Not many children’s poetry books get published in NZ sadly), then they took over. For me there were no big challenges (some of my books have had tyrannosaurus challenges!), it was just cupcake pleasure. When I saw the way the zesty illustrations of Myles Lawford danced on the page, I cried! When I saw Scholastic had given the book a Dr-Seussy feel I jumped with joy on the spot.

3. How did you tailor this book to the age-group it reaches?

When I write poems for children, I want the poems to sound good and catch the ear. I want my poems to go into the poetry playground and have fun. Going down a poem slide or digging in the poem sandpit can be funny, serious, imaginative, challenging. Playing with words can make your skin tingle just like when you whiz down the slide. I want my poems to hook the five-year old and the twelve-year old. I think poems can travel an age stretch more easily than novels and stories.

4. Who have you dedicated this book to, and why?

I dedicated it to my brother Warren and his lovely wife Banu. She’s from Turkey so it felt like a nice welcome gift to our family and to New Zealand.

5. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book?

Margaret Mahy’s The Word Witch because she was the queen of word play. Any collections by Peter Bland because he is an expert on the way poems can sound so good and dazzle with imagination. A truckload of poetry collections from USA: I love anything by Calef Brown, Valerie Worth, Karla Kuskin and Shel Silverstein. The dictionary! This was one of my favourite books when I was young and I would read it in bed with a torch. I loved finding strange words. I loved mashing words together so they sparked or sung. And the book I loved to sit on the (make-believe) stairs and recite from: AA Milne poems. Bliss.

6. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or writing, and why?

I love doing things outside like running swimming walking cycling gardening boogie boarding skiing. I don’t care if it is raining or windy or freezing because the Great Outside blows all the spiders webs clear out of my head. Then I am ready to write a poem! I like doing things inside like cooking (especially dinner!), doing cryptic crosswords, watching films and TV shows. Hanging out with my girls. I like cooking tasty new things, sharpening my mind with tough puzzles, sharing the warmth and love that makes a family special. Family is more important to me than anything.

Myles Lawford was influenced by Quentin Blake in his images for The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems:

1. What was your approach to illustrating each of these books?

For The Letterbox Cat I wanted fun little images, nothing too finished as to distract from the poetry, mainly influenced by Quentin Blake and Ronald Searle.

2. Tell us a bit about the journey from storyboards to published work for each book. What was the biggest challenge you faced in illustrating each of the books?

The challenge of The Letterbox Cat was to find interesting interpretations of each poem. I would come up with a few ideas for each and then present these to the editor for approval.

3. How closely were you able to collaborate with the writers? Do you prefer to work this way?

Actually, I don’t talk to the writers at all during the entire process, only at the end when the book has been printed is the first time I talk to the writers to see how they feel. Thankfully I haven’t had any disappointed writers yet. Fingers crossed. We try and split the two processes of writing and illustrating so that one doesn’t influence the other.

4. What was your favourite thing to draw when you were at primary school – did you have a “party trick”?

When I was at primary school I spent most of my time drawing for my classmates, at a cost. I charged people for helping them illustrate their homework and projects. Nothing too outrageous, an ice cream here, a steak and cheese pie there.

5. What is your favourite thing to do when you aren’t reading or illustrating, and why?

I’m a big fan of computer games, the conceptual design in gaming was always something I wanted to do, whether it being designing new characters, races, architecture or environments. I find myself sketching ideas all the time due to something I might of seen in a game or from a movie. I a child at heart, I’m not ready to grow up just yet.

If you want to know more about Paula’s work, check out her two dedicated poetry blogs, The Poetry Box – a NZ poetry page for children and NZ Poetry Shelf.

For a review of The Letterbox Cat & Other Poems, check out the Booksellers NZ blog.

Yesterday’s feature was Maori Art for Kids, by Julie Noanoa and Norm Heke, which was featured on the NZ Green Buttons blog. Monday’s feature will be the third of our five non-fiction titles, New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame: 25 Kiwi Champions, by Maria Gill and Marco Ivancic. This will be featured at Booksellers NZ’s blog site.



This week I flew to Auckland to see a special edition of Hue & Cry journal. It was commissioned by ST PAUL St Gallery for the exhibition The things we talked about, which looks at how ‘speaking, reading, writing, research: each may be understood as a gesture of self-definition, as part of an unfolding autobiographical narrative.’

The Hue & Cry edition Window/Mirror is in the gallery’s front window and came out of a conversation between myself and artist Ruth Buchanan. Ruth currently lives in Berlin so our conversation was an email blind date. The starting point: a question about whether our art practice was a form of self-definition. The exhibition catalogue states that Window/Mirror ‘comes to the space as a vinyl text on the window and a series of suspended posters that change each week during the exhibition.’ The idea of suspension appeals – to write to each other required a suspension of our everyday doing. Ruth’s emails would turn up, challenging me, and I’d have to respond to keep the conversation going. I imagined her at a big wooden desk, or, like me, at a kitchen table. Over a month we tried to wring out the relationship between art and self-definition, at least for the two of us.

ST PAUL St Gallery

ST PAUL St Gallery

ST PAUL St Gallery is usually closed on a Monday, so when I arrived Abby Cunnane, who curated the show, turned on the lights and video pieces, holding up her remote as if in salute. I spent an hour in the gallery and at times felt quite moved. It’s an exceptional collection of pieces and voices, with work by Moyra Davey, Dorine van Meel, Ruth Buchanan, Marie Shannon, and Alicia Frankovich. On opening night there was also a performance by lightreading (Sonya Lacey and Sarah Rose). Shannon’s digital work The Achaean Faxes (2012) especially made me think about the lifespan and function of a conversation. Shannon edited faxes from her partner Julian Dashper during his residency in Germany in 1995 (Dashper died in 2009) paired her new narrative with a mournful cello piece. It made me think about how we not only use conversation to define ourselves, but to cross distances and connect, whether that be from Berlin to Wellington, or to a time decades ago.

ST PAUL St Gallery


ST PAUL St Gallery

Images, top to bottom: Lover (2011) by Alicia Frankovich; The Achaean Faxes (2012) by Marie Shannon; One of the three curtains that form An image of a solid (2012) by Ruth Buchanan

Window/Mirror (2015) was edited by Chloe Lane and Andrea Bell, and designed by The International Office.

Book Launch: Native Bird by Bryan Walpert

Bryan Walpert was my doctoral supervisor, and he’s one of the most beautiful and interesting writers I know. I’m excited about his new collection, Native Bird, which will be launched at 4pm, Sunday 19 April at the Fringe Bar in Wellington. Native Bird will be launched as part of Makaro Presss Hoopla Series. You can read three of his poems on this blog: Horse Story,’ Operation, October,’ and ‘Objective Correlative.’
About Native Bird
In his anticipated third collection, award-winning poet Bryan Walpertwho arrived here from the U.S. a decade agowrites of what its been like to be an observer or birdwatcher in a land whose physical and cultural geographies he is still learning to name. With his trademark precision and insight, Bryan weaves meditations on the life and songs of birds into his observations on living as a new settler in wind-charged Manawatu. Working at the shifting borders between homes and hearts, prose and poetry, call and song, this is an arresting collection that speaks to us all.
About Bryan Walpert
Bryan Walpert’s poetry has been published in New Zealand, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. He’s won the James Wright Poetry Award from the Mid-American Review, the NZ Poetry Society International Poetry Competition, the RSNZ Manhire Award for Creative Science Writing, and an Australian Dialogica Award for writing about poetry, and has been short-listed in other major international awards, notably the Rattle Poetry Prize (U.S.) and the Montreal International Poetry Prize. The author of two previous poetry collections (Etymology, A History of Glass), a short fiction collection (Ephraim’s Eyes) and a scholarly book on poetry and science (Resistance to Science in Contemporary American Poetry), Bryan is an Associate Professor in the School of English & Media Studies at Massey University.

Wellington invite

To Eleanor, With Love

A lot has been written about Eleanor Catton’s interview on liveMint TV and Sean Plunket’s response to that interview (see The Dim Post, Gordon Campbell, Morgan Godfery). What was overlooked in the kerfuffle were Catton’s comments about New Zealanders’ reluctance to express firm beliefs, in particular the beliefs New Zealand writers hold about writing. Catton said:

But I think it is always a shame when people don’t stand up for what it is that they really believe. And I do think the problem we face in New Zealand is that we are reluctant to express firm beliefs in anything. An example would be, I was teaching in class in Auckland. I made up a statement with manifestos from all over the world, different writers who all thought what writing should do or not do. I was going to give it out to my students and have them write about the one that spoke to them the most. When I was putting this document together, I thought, hang on, I don’t have any New Zealand writers here. And I spent an entire day on the Internet trying to find an aesthetic statement from a New Zealand writer and there was nothing. Hopefully in the future, we will have more people being brave in that way.

It is certainly a debatable point of view, and one that reminded me of how spoken interviews often lend themselves to generalisations. That said, I think Catton’s underlying point deserves more discussion. One writer I emailed cited Allen Curnow’s controversial introduction to A Book of New Zealand Verse 1923-45 (1945) as a form of manifesto, as well as Michele Leggott’s Opening the Archive. A quick browse of Best New Zealand Poems will throw up many a manifestoesque statement, for example Ian Wedde’s belief in the diversity of poetry. On the other hand, New Zealanders are often so agreeable that they do not speak out, and, as Brian Easton points out of Catton, when they do, they are attacked by the media. The dire consequences of such an attack are outlined by Godfery on Overland. 

Whether or not you agree with Catton is not really the point. She is a writer that spurs intellectual debate about the role of writing and writers, and she is also someone who stands up as a public intellectual. This is a valuable thing, and it’s certainly brave. To show my support for her right to speak, I asked a few New Zealand writers to write their own statements or manifestos about writing – a love letter of sorts to Catton’s outspokenness. Thank you to those who responded. If you’re a New Zealand writer, post your own in the comments (or email them to me) and I’ll add them to the post. Please feel free to repost.

I believe writing needs to burn through to something. That’s the reason I do it. To hopefully create a sense in the reader, and also in myself, that some kind of incandescence has occurred, illuminating the world, human beings, power, nature, history, the future, our mothers and fathers, our ancestors. – Hinemoana Baker, writer and musician

The choice or drive to write anything goes beyond speech. It is both more free and more fixed. To write is to attempt to fix something, to find something of which we can be certain, to delay or stretch time, to hold all that is evanescent in words. ‘Should’ or ‘should not’ have no place in this drive or decision. It rests on ‘can’ and ‘must’. For what writing can and must do is provide us with evidence of self and world – evidence being a moment in which something is fixed. Every writer – whether of novel, poem, letter or email – seeks and accomplishes this with greater or lesser truth, greater or lesser technical ability. So all writing is both self-portrait and picture of a world – representation of what we characterise as inner and outer life. And here is the marvel. Writing is both portrait of the writer and mirror for the reader. Every successful portrait is a mirror. It is of us and belongs to us as soon as written, for it is in our language. We may recognise ourselves or not, be flattered or insulted, comprehend the image or be baffled by it. These are our own, individual responses. But the mirror, the written text, does not answer to us. It travels. It is a mirror for individuals unknown to us, unlike us, even unborn, to see, confront, appreciate, understand themselves. For these reasons, we need writers who have no interest in being told what writing should or should not do. Those who are concerned with should and should not are those who would avoid or control the mirror. – Harold Jones, poet

It’s hard to take literary manifestos seriously, and I’ve always liked Frank O’Hara’s “Personism” essay, which is both jokey and useful. When you write a poem, “you just go on your nerve,” he says. “As for measure and other technical apparatus, that’s just common sense: if you’re going to buy a pair of pants you want them to be tight enough so everyone will want to go to bed with you. There’s nothing metaphysical about it.” But what does it mean, to “just go on your nerve”? I don’t know, really, but O’Hara did it, and I wish more poets followed his example. – Tim Upperton, poet

Ellie Catton’s comments about firm belief resonate strongly with me. As to what writing should or should not do, it has to be up to the individual writer. Hard-and-fast rules or encompassing statements tend not to be particularly useful to creative practitioners in any field. I think this discussion raises two separate points: firstly, what attitudes should writers express in their work, and secondly what attitudes they should express via other means, such as interviews or public talks. What has angered me most about this media incident is the implied idea that a writer shouldn’t be publicly criticising her country or its government. That is absolutely a totalitarian attitude. – Airini Beautrais, poet

Writing presents a brave act of magic, and an aid to survival. Writing focuses and controls our thinking, while we make our infinite world within into something finite, to work in the world of others. Often writing inspires or provokes dialogue. Buber, the German philosopher, said the only way we progress is through dialogue. Writing may be deliberately set to encourage people to communicate well with each other. Also, writing may expose a unique, talented individual unafraid to display their work, even if knowing it is rare, strange, and at times startling, or controversial. Although various attacks, envious remarks, sabotage, threats, and basic rudeness may result, it’s important to write well, and enjoy it, and learn. Writing has also a honourable purpose in that we may record what we experience, recall, or imagine, because we believe human beings matter, and what we form into language can assist others immeasurably, in ways we can often not imagine. So we need to work hard, trust others, and publish no matter the opposition, for the good of the many. – Raewyn Alexander, writer 

It’s easy to tell stories about New Zealanders as a people who don’t have (or particularly want) full access to the world of ideas; who prefer to traffic in physical expression, via outlets such as sporting prowess and the conspicuous acquisition of material wealth. There are those who mistake these stories for incontrovertible truth, proclaiming them to be “the way things are” or “how the world works” as if it were ever possible to tell such a story. Such absolutist types can often react poorly to storytellers who chip the concrete absolutism from their sustaining narratives, revealing the shifting impermanence beneath. But it’s these second kind of storytellers we need: those who make the world bigger, not smaller, revealing possibilities outside the reductive narratives by which we’re tricked into viewing our lives. Eleanor Catton has reminded us this week that there is no reason on earth why people living in New Zealand should not enjoy access to such storytellers. She doesn’t belong to New Zealand — her work happened in her mind, not in this country or that — but inasmuch as her voice sounds recognisable to us, we are fortunate to have the chance to hear her stories. – Tom Goulter, writer

The art of writing is couched in a shifting constellation of ideas, philosophy, politics and moral vision. It is an inherently political act, whether one acknowledges it or not. Because of that, it comes with a responsibility to continue to learn, to critique and to be mindful of our own thinking and to be curators of our own beliefs. This ongoing process of reflection is the examined life – the only one worth living. – Anna Forsyth, writer and musician

I do believe that writers are more than a ‘brand’ or producers of ‘product.’ We should support the right of writers to question authority and political leaders. In my work, I am striving to reach an honesty. I want my work to be of the highest quality – I am trying to reach my best. Writers should not be expected to be cultural ambassadors or even role models. I support Catton’s statement and her sentiments and admire her courage. – Harvey Molloy, poet  

It is the job and function of artists of all kinds to be political, to be dissenting voices, to challenge the status quo. It is our job to show the truths we perceive and the alternative possibilities we visualise. It is our job to speak clearly and to ensure that debates about how our country (and our world) is governed aren’t held only between the people who do the governing and those who aspire to replace them. Who is better placed to do this than artists? – Joy Green, poet, reviewer, theatre pactitioner & teacher

Writing should be an honest, pioneering inquiry into the aspects of the writer, and the world the writer inhabits, which are concealed or overlooked. Sylvia Plath’s promise to ‘write until I begin to speak my deep self’ is attractive to me. I don’t think this ‘deep self’ is found by solipsistic tunnelling, but via perilous imaginative journeys that send the self into alien circumstances. This sort of writing should startle both the writer and the reader – perhaps by showing what is presumed foreign to be familiar and vice versa. Writing should also be readable. If the writer fears, disrespects or neglects the assumed reader, writing becomes muddy. Instead, writing should accentuate the muddiness of quotidian language and inspire us to demand better. If we only receive politicians’ cliché-muffled meaning, advertisements’ senseless promises, and bureaucracies’ contorted parlance, we might forget how much clearer expression could be and relinquish our own clarity of thought. Writing should ward off such a vulnerable impairment.Amy Brown, poet

It’s true New Zealand writers (with the obvious exception of Allen Curnow and a few others) don’t tend to go in for personal manifestos or literary creeds or dogmatic aesthetic statements. This is partly due to not wanting to seem ‘up yourself’, partly to a distrust of movements and slogans, partly to our culture of politeness (which is definitely a likeable trait, but does inhibit our willingness to review each other’s work). I’ve found that the most useful literary statements are more like tips and are mostly just common sense: “originality is better than repetition”; don’t write something just because it sounds rhetorically or sonorously effective; “They learn in suffering what they teach in song”; develop your own ‘shit-detector’, your own inner reader; with poems, the proof of the pudding is usually in the rhythm. Manifestos (besides propaganda, posturing and self-promotion) are only really useful to writers if these help them with the work itself. Ironically, writers who come up with literary creeds are often at their most interesting when they’re breaking them. – Harry Ricketts, poet, academic, editor, reviewer

For me, it’s important to distinguish between an ‘aesthetic statement[s]’ about ‘what writing should or should not do’ – most often made, I believe, by individual white men and those who help them create/sustain their canon – and a ‘manifesto’ that groups of writers and artists make collectively. And there’s a fine tradition of manifestos/kaupapa in New Zealand. The one closest to my hand – and probably my heart – is this one from the Mothers exhibition catalogue (1980); I laughed when I reached for a heavy book to hold it flattish to photograph and that book was Charles Brasch: Journals 1938-1945. Mothers includes poems from Elizabeth Smither, Fiona Kidman, Joanna Margaret Paul, Juliet Batten, Keri Hulme and Meg Campbell.

women's gallery manifesto

I’m pretty certain that there are similar manifestos from other groups, like the founders of Spiral magazine. Their manifesto may have suggested that women artists and writers benefit from extended periods when they read and look at women’s work only. That’s how I came to know and love that strategy. The Haeata Collective certainly had a kaupapa and may have had a written version, perhaps in its Karanga Karanga catalogue – from artists and writers like Maaka Jones, Patricia Grace, Robyn Kahukiwa, Keri Kaa, Irihapeti Ramsden, Shona Rapira-Davies, Tungia Baker, Roma Potiki.These manifestos/kaupapa – and the actions they inspired – arose from conditions that made it difficult for diverse women to make work and to have it published or exhibited within an appropriate context. Public and private reactions to the manifestos/ kaupapa and the related activity were often intense, intended to silence participants and hurtful to individuals. Those who had a strong publication or exhibition record and contributed to these collectives’ ideas did so for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they wanted to take risks that their dealers or publishers would not support. And/or they wanted to ensure that audiences experienced their work within an appropriate collective framework. And/or they wanted to act in solidarity. Of New Zealanders who’ve worked consistently with a personal manifesto I think film editor Annie Collins has been most influential, because her kaupapa’s ethical and aesthetic elements have affected so many New Zealand films and filmmakers. – Marian Evans, writer and maker

Free speech is the non negotiable space writers and writing must inhabit. As part of the Fourth Estate it is every writer’s job – as it is every journalist’s job – to hold governments to account and to speak out against them if/when things go awry. In this, the remits of the Fourth Estate – impartiality, integrity – are those which guide the writer through their free expression of opinion and critique. Writers and writing should never be lambasted, shamed or demeaned for simply ensuring democratic principles such as liberty and open discourse are upheld. – Siobhan Harvey, poet

Poetry should walk the tightrope between the right and the left brain and never fall off. It should create whole worlds that the poet cannot fully understand, and be soul-work, and never lie still. – Joan Fleming, poet 

Writers write for all sorts of different reasons, so I wouldn’t expect each and every one of them to be the critical voice of their generation, or to regard speaking truth to power as a moral imperative. However, these are very legitimate and I would say necessary expectations for a society to place on its intellectual class overall. This is why we must stand by those writers among us who dare to be critical of our society and its institutions when they are under attack. Solidarity with Eleanor Catton. Giovanni Tiso, writer and translator

The writer must be true to herself. Truthfulness is beautiful although it may be hard to hear and hard to look at. It can be brutal. It can fail. Truthfulness does not speak for the sound of its own voice or step forward for the pose. A character may act falsely, a plot move may be a false lead but the force that through the green fuse drives the flower must also drive the writer’s hand. The writer’s hand is hers alone. – Kirsten McDougall, novelist

I’m a little allergic to the idea of manifestos, I guess because of their insistence and their demands for certainty in a pursuit that, to my mind, better rewards suspension of judgment, and uncertainty. If NZ writers are in fact reluctant to write manifestos, I tend to think it’s not due to a lack of firm belief, but another characteristic in our literature – a determination to stay open, to allow multiple realities into a work, to intentionally puncture the tendency towards easy and firmly held opinion (cf Keats’s negative capability). To my mind this is one of the brilliant offshoots of what is essentially a postcolonial literature, and one of the reasons why there are so many excellent NZ poets. – Anna Smaill, poet and novelist

I think writing should not be afraid to offend, not offense for offense’s sake, but to address issues and subjects that the writer feels strongly about and to which certain sectors might take objection. Satire is an under-used and under-appreciated genre in New Zealand writing. Many New Zealand writers shy away from dealing with political issues in their writing either because politics doesn’t interest them or because they fear the backlash in a small society. In this way, I think it is brave of Eleanor Catton to nail her political colours to the mast. Art addresses the full spectrum of the human condition, but we must not forget that we are citizens as well as writers. As writers, we can use our talents and our vision to effect change. – Andrew M. Bell, poet, fiction writer and playwright

Writing at its most radical is an act of empathy. It makes you, as best you can, inhabit the mind of another person. Even if that person is cruel or hateful or simply different to how you see yourself, it makes you spend time understanding their perspective. – Sarah Jane Barnett, poet and reviewer

The Americans and other poetry

A new year, a new pile of poetry books that I bought last year and didn’t read. That’s what we have new year’s resolutions for.

Check out the Americans: Mary Oliver, Adrienne Rich, and Jorie Graham. Interestingly they’re all women, and all born in the early to mid 20th century. This seems to be where my interest lies, in post-war American poetry, often from the West Coast. I’m an Americophile, at least when it comes to literature. Someone also gave me a copy of The Best American Poetry 2014, which I started to read last year. The opening poem ‘Sonnet, with Pride’ by Sherman Alexie is, on the surface, about lions escaping from Baghdad Zoo during the Iraq War. It’s sharp and wonderful.

Other collections that came my way are because of my interest in narrative poetry: Dear Neil Roberts by Airini Beautrais, South by Chris Orsman, The Odour of Sanctity by Amy Brown, and The Rocky Shore by Jenny Bornholdt (all VUP). They’re also writers that I’ve enjoyed in the past and know I can learn from. I also managed to pick up quite a few out-of-print collections and nearly have a complete set of Bernadette Hall’s poetry. I’m going to read her first collection Heartwood (Caxton) and then her latest, Life & Customs (VUP). Then there are the books I simply wanted to read: Bird Murder by Stefanie Lash, Cinema by Helen Rickerby (both Makaro Press), How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (AUP) by Chris Tse, Cloudboy (OUP) by Siobhan Harvey, Thicket (VUP) by Anna Jackson, The Unfortunate Singer (VUP) by Rachel Bush, and Horse with Hat (VUP) by Marty Smith.


The Americans

Bernadette Hall


Mayan Love Charms

Recently, my friends Chloe and Pete moved to Gainesville, Florida. Chloe had been offered a place in a highly respected MFA programme. On their way to the US they spent a few weeks in Mexico, and Chloe sent me this book of Mayan love charms, which are like short poems. The book was made by Taller Lenateros, a publishing collective founded by Ámbar Past in 1975 and run by contemporary Mayan artists (Past translated the charms from Tzotzil to English). The collective has created the first books to be written, illustrated, printed, bound (in paper of their own making) by Mayan people in over 400 years. It is such a beautiful book.

At WORD Christchurch, I had a few conversations about books as art objects. I think books will always be relevant and bought and loved, but as any bookseller will tell you, the industry is changing. It made me think about how books, as cultural objects, have changed over time from the first rare and painstakingly created parchment and paper books, to the proliferation of books with the printing press, and now ebooks. I wonder what’s next. Mostly I’m thinking about poetry (in part because I’m a poet, but also because I buy a lot of poetry), which – I think – doesn’t do well in ebook form. Maybe I’m just old-school; I like my poetry on paper. It did make me think about how much I enjoy chapbooks, or the limited edition books produced by Sarah Maxey, or just poetry books that care about design.

Mayan Love Charms

Mayan Love Charms

Mayan Love Charms

Mayan Love Charms

Mayan Love Charms