Hue & Cry at Dog Park / Christchurch

What a night! Here are the photographs from the Christchurch launch of A Man Runs into a Woman, with a reading by Kerrin P. Sharpe, author of Three Days in a Wishing Well. This was also Hue & Cry’s first South Island event. Thanks to Dog Park Art Project Space for hosting and to Dan Melbye for the great photos.

From top to bottom: the crowd listens to introductions, talking to Kerrin while holding my book, Chloe introduces us before our readings (that’s my nervous face), Kerrin reading, signing books, a launch-goer reading my book, Chloe, one of the Dog Park directors.

A Man Runs into a Woman: Launch party!

Pictures in order. 1. A stack of books ready to go to good homes. 2. Waiting to read. I was clasping the book pretty hard, but more through excitement than nerves. This is one of the poems I read. 3. Reading after being introduced by Dr. Bryan Walpert. 4. Signing some books. I love how burred this photograph turned out. It’s how the entire night felt to me. 5. Happiness is someone holding my book (Picture: Charlotte Simmonds) 6. The day after the launch I went into Unity Books to sign some stock. Thanks, Unity.

Things I’ve learned from the book

In no particular order:

  • The rules for commas, or at least my understanding of them, is unacceptably wooly.
  • Poetry books have a lot of white space at the bottom and not a lot at the top. It looks weird on screen but right on paper.
  • A group of poems does not make a book. It took quite a few years (and many rejections) to learn this. Working with a group of good editors helped me order my poems into a collection.
  • It’s a good idea to trust your designers, in my case The International Office. This meant I had to suppress my natural urge to offer ‘helpful’ suggestions. The final cover and type setting of the book are not what I imagined they would be, which is good because my design imagination is pretty limited.
  • The poems in the book were written between 2009 and 2012. I wonder what my younger self would have thought if I’d told her it would take ten years to publish our first collection, and three years to write it. I’ve learned that my writing progresses slowly when I’ve got the business of life (husband, baby, work, Wellington) to enjoy. This isn’t a bad thing, but something I need to accept and keep in mind when writing the next collection.
  • My mother is the best proof reader I know.
  • Community newspapers will inevitably get your name wrong.
  • Barcodes! We decided not to have one as my book is unlikely to be a massive international seller, and the design looked better without it.
  • When a publisher puts out a book not only do they need an ISBN, but they need to register the book with the National Library of New Zealand’s Cataloguing-In-Publication (CiP) programme so a cataloguing record for the book can be created and shared with all New Zealand libraries. The publisher also has to give the Library a copy of the book under Legal Deposit so it’s available for everyone. How brilliant is that?
  • Holding the finished book in my hands was surreal / amazing. I’m really proud that it’s mine.

There are three days until the launch – 10 August, 5.30pm, at City Gallery in Wellington. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday Poem: ‘When the Sister Walks’ by Sarah Jane Barnett

When the Sister Walks

The trail is damp so she gathers up the hem
of her habit and scolds her own impatience

as she steps over roots as thick as a boy’s wrist. She
is not at her best. When she left he gently pressed

his tattooed palm to the glass barrier. He said,
See ya, Sister. He made a joke – See you tomorrow.

He watched her face while she recited from her red-
edged bible. Finally, like a child, his head rested down.

At the lake she makes towards the witness tree,

she holds aside a low-hanging hickory, the seed-nut rattle
exciting a family of yellow-back wasps. They scatter

like bright marbles, afraid or maybe angry
she cries out, Oh – oh – and stumbles

away from their hide. They are sucked into an undulating
bubble of yellow and vibrate up into the trees.

They haven’t hurt her. It is nothing

but on her knees she says, Oh God, I am thankful
for you
. She wipes a dirty finger across her cheek.

“When the Sister Walks” is one of a series of nine poems about death row executions in Texas. It appears in my debut collection, A Man Runs into a Woman, which will be launched 10 August, 5.30pm, at the Michael Hirschfeld Gallery in Wellington. The poem first appeared in issue four of Hue & Cry Journal. In 2006 I wrote a poem in response to the hanging in the movie Capote, about the power of cinema, illusion, and self delusion. While looking for information about hanging, I found a website that had the last words and criminal reports of death row inmates.

It may sound like the death row series is about execution, but that’s only true in passing. I wrote the poems as a way to try and understand  how something like a murder, and then the subsequent execution of the convicted person, could become a normalised event for the people involved–the police, prison wardens, execution technicians, clergy, the inmates and their family, and the family of the victims. Maybe it can’t. I hope the poems try to reconcile, or at least interpret, the different stories told by the inmate’s last words and the police crime report. Maybe my poems are another story about the event.

A Man Runs into a Woman can be purchased from the Hue & Cry Press store.

Check out other Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Hub.