Tim Jones is a New Zealand writer I much admire. He is able to turn his talented writing-hand to many genres and forms - among them, speculative fiction, science fiction, short stories, novels and poetry.
It is my absolute pleasure to take part in the Blog Tour organised for his latest publication the poetry collection, 'Men Briefly Explained'; a book I thoroughly enjoyed for a myriad of reasons - not the least being for its guiless, self-deprecating humour and the descriptions and references to parts of New Zealand I am very familiar with.
1) The last time I saw you was at the first event on your recent book tour (with Keith Westwater and David Reiter), at the Circadian Rhythm Cafe in Dunedin. The audience there was treated to an excellent evening of high quality and entertaining poetry. How did the rest of the tour go?
It went well, although we took the rain we had at the Dunedin event around the country! We had good turnouts in Christchurch, though it's probably no surprise that audience reaction was fairly muted, and even better turnouts in our home stamping grounds of Wellington and Lower Hutt. We must have had about 80 people at the Wellington event, held in the YA section of Wellington Central Library - though since it is a library, I did notice that one seeming audience member was actually there to read a library book - it was a Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic, a choice of which I naturally approved.
I had a really good time at the Lower Hutt launch, held at Eastbourne's excellent Rona Gallery, and even though the Kapiti launch at Paraparaumu Library was organised at the last minute, and at two minutes before the scheduled start time there was only one audience member present, we ended up with an appreciative audience of a dozen or so people. Going to Auckland always makes me a little apprehensive, and by that point in the tour I'd acquired a cold - the rigours of touring life, you know - but our appearance as part of Poetry Live at the Thistle Inn was a good way to cap off the tour.
I enjoyed my turns to read, especially once I settled on the poems that worked best in front of an audience, and also enjoyed catching up with old friends - and new friends - along the way.
2) One thing that struck me about "Men Briefly Explained" was how much the first section, in particular, is about your own life. Since you grew up in Southland and Otago, that means there are a number of poems set in the southern South Island. This is a place dear to my heart, for as you know it's where I was born and brought up, but do you ever worry that these poems won't mean much to people who haven't lived in this part of the country?
This probably isn't rational, but I think I'd worry more if I were writing prose. It's true that there may not be many readers who know where Puysegur Point is ("Men at Sea") or have ever been to Haast Beach ("Shetland Ponies, Haast Beach"), but I hope the feelings and experiences communicated in the poems overcome the possible unfamiliarity of the locations. Just as a lot of the poetry in the first section of this book hearkens back to my own childhood, youth and young manhood, so it hearkens back to the places where those stages of my life took place.
Having said that, I was very impressed that my fellow book-tourist Keith Westwater, in his debut collection Tongues of Ash <http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/TOA.htm> which includes a lot of landscape poetry, thought to put in a map of the locations which the poems are about. I associate maps with fantasy trilogies - I never thought of putting one in a poetry collection, but it's an excellent idea.
3) I was interested to see that you have included some prose poems in this collection, which I don't recall seeing from you before. Is that a direction you see your poetry taking?
I'm rather surprised to see them there myself! I have always been a bit nervous of prose poetry, perhaps because I write both poetry and short fiction, and prose poetry occupies an ominous netherworld between the two.
Of the two examples, the "Three Southern Prose Poems", which are all based on experiences I had growing up - as a child playing on Bluecliffs Beach at Te Waewae Bay, as a slightly older child climbing the Black Umbrella Range in Northern Southland with my dad, and as an adolescent, rather too full of my own self-importance, travelling back to Otago University from my home town of Gore - were written several years ago now, while "As you know, Bob", three alternative futures for the male gender, was written relatively recently, so I don't think that constitutes a trend. All the same, I wouldn't be surprised if a few more prose poems pop out from time to time.
4) As an ex-Gore High pupil myself; one who also headed to 'the big smoke' of Dunedin as a tertiary student; I'm dying to ask - did you really wear your Gore High School jersey to the bottle store, when you were eighteen years old and the drinking age was twenty, as described in "Down George Street in the Rain"?
Indeed I did. I don't know whether this was a subsconscious desire to be caught, but for some reason, when taking this little trip to the bottle store near my student hostel for a reason I now forget - supplies for a party, I expect - I wore my Gore High School jersey, and was turned away without so much as a bottle of Speights to my name. To this day, I never know what the right thing to wear is in any given situation.
5) What if any reaction have you had to the concept of publishing a book called "Men Briefly Explained"? Has there been a different reaction from women than from men?
At the readings, I tended to forestall any possible adverse reactions by putting my finger over the 'n' of "Men" and saying that the book might be better titled "Me Briefly Explained". Because, obviously, there is a lot of me in this book - although the second and third sections of the book are more about other men, both real and imagined, than about me.
Maybe I shouldn't worry. Reaction to the book has been good so far, but it was noticeable that, at the tour events, it was overwhelmingly women who bought it. I am hoping that men wanting gifts for women will come to the party over the coming months. Gentlemen, this is your chance to explain yourselves without actually having to do the explaining - what are you waiting for?
How To Buy A Copy Of Men Briefly Explained
Men Briefly Explained is published by Interactive Press (IP) of Brisbane. You can find out more about Men Briefly Explained, and buy it direct from the publisher, on IP's mini-site for the book: http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/MBE.htm
On Tim's Men Briefly Explained page, there are more options for buying the book in person and online, plus latest reader reactions and reviews: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/p/men-briefly-explained.html