Saturday, 18 July 2009

Poet Envy

Ice plant climber; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

I love reading poetry, but when I read poetry written by fellow New Zealand poets I am left with a mish-mash of feelings. Among them; envy, defeat, admiration, inspiration ... The envy is self-explanatory as the poetry is always excellent, I feel my own could never be as good; so I feel envious - a 'why can't I write like that?' feeling ... is that envy? I guess it is.

Stone retaining wall; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Defeat because, again, it is so good why do I even want to bother to add my paltry efforts to the grand pile? Then admiration because I can't help but sit back in awe. And finally inspiration - thank goodness, because that is what gets me up from where I lie floored by all the skill and exquisite turning of words and phrases; all the ease of language and new ways of putting ideas across; all the quiet humour ... to embrace the motivation and spur to keep on writing myself.

Overbridge reflections: shadows and bars; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Sometimes a thought, memory, connection or just plain astonishment is triggered by another writer's descriptions. For example, Tim Jones' poem about the keas in the Gore Gardens (already I have written a response to this haunting poem) and all other southern evocations he calls up in both his poetry collections - as well as a range of other subjects. Or the stunning poetry about Antarctica in Bernadette Hall's, 'The Ponies'.

Lime-deposit scribbles on rock; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

And in 'Calypso', Bob Orr's marvellous evocations of Auckland ... a place I have only visited briefly, and a very long time ago ... that caused its harbours to materialise before my eyes.

Leak stuck to a green-slimed wall; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Elizabeth Smither's way of describing the small things in a garden, or city, that other people may only glance over and dismiss, inspire me to look again at the vein of a leaf and take up the challenge to put what I see into words that compel the reader to take notice. Cilla McQueen's almost deadpan, yet extremely clever, surprising and fresh, descriptions as always leave me smiling. Jenny Bornholdt's easy and sweet squeezing of juices from out of everyday life, its hardships, its tiny defeats and joys, makes for extremely pleasurable poetry. And Fiona Farrell's intelligent exploration of place and home and of Irish ancestry in her latest collection, 'The Pop-Up Book of Invasions', triggers wake-up calls and responses in the sleepy recesses of my own brain where ancestry and questing connect.

Stick insect, detritus; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

And all the other New Zealand poets (there are whole constellations of them out there!) do a similar work on my writer's brain and imagination. I salute them all. Thanks also to all the publishers who stalwartly publish New Zealand poetry, despite what must be less than satisfactory returns; because let's face it: how many of the general public reads it? So good job people - poets and publishers and all.


Barnacles on rock; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Part of the reason I go for walks is not only for the exercise and space to think, reflect and plan - but to explore and discover. I always try to have my camera with me because you never know. Yesterday I was delighted by what I found at the edge of the inlet at low tide. (All the photos posted here are the result.) More poetry. It's enough to make me want to Smither a leaf, Orr a barnacle and Jones a seagull ...



Catherine said...

I share your reactions to other poets - but have to keep reminding myself that the inside of my own brain is potentially as strange and wonderful to others as theirs is to me - that's the beauty of poetry, that it shows us not just the world but the inside of another poet's brain.
Craft, of course, is another thing and has to be worked at...

Becky Willis Motew said...

I know what you mean about all of that envy and admiration. Some writers don't like to read while they are working on a book--fear of "voice creep," as I have heard it said. But in the end, your vision is as important, as valid, and as needed as theirs. At least that's what I tell myself. Your work is beautiful. b

Clare Dudman said...

How honest you are! Yes, I think we all feel the same - or if not, we should, I suppose.

Fantastic photos Kay. I especially love the one of the car on the pier.

Kay Cooke said...

Catherine - And it is that uniqueness that helps us realise our voice is of equal value. The craft is the hard work that pays off in the end, to the benefit of all. Well, we can always hope so anyway!

Becky - I like the 'voice creep' expression; it is rather apt. I believe that is the very reason why I have put off catching up on NZ poetry for a year or more. I just wanted to get on with my own stuff without becoming daunted!
Thanks for your kind encouragement. Your work is great too and I am looking forward to that next novel - very much.

Clare - Thanks. I think that photo you mentioned and the one of the leaf are the two I am especially proud of.

Unknown said...

So it's not just me, eh? I think it's very healthy to have those sort of reactions - just as long as we don't let defeat reign! But you've written poetry that's made me think that too, so... :)

dinzie said...

great piccs - lots of interest in them:O)


Kay Cooke said...

Barbara - Really?! That makes me feel kind of encouraged in a perverse way! (Sorry.) Of course,it goes both ways - so ditto!

Dinzie - Thanks for that, praise indeed.

McDinzie said...

ok so I understand the need for you to be happy with what your writing...pleased that you have achieved etc...but part of me says.....sometimes you have to just let yourself out there and let others decide for you how great your poetry is.

Its what I tell djd when he dithers about applying for a role he thinks they wouldn't accept him for...its not his place to second guess what they are looking for or would want,submit the application and let them decide :-)

Kay Cooke said...

Mcd - Just call it writer's angst! ;)

paris parfait said...

Isn't that the way most of us react to other people's creative work, whether it's poetry, writing, art or photography? It's not necessarily better, just different. It's a big world and there's room for many, many voices. I have found that the only way I can achieve anything is to admire other people's work, but totally ignore it and forge my own path. I have one so-called friend who has been nothing but negative about my photography or anything good that happens for me. She's done the same thing to other photographers - we finally figured out that she's trying to intimidate all of us, because of her own insecurities and limited resources.

Your poetry is wonderful and in a class by itself. Lovely images too! xo

apprentice said...

Yes I think we all share these feelings from time to time. When I last felt like that a fellow poet told me she treated writing more as discipline that she followed, a bit like meditation maybe,and that that helped her to remember why she wrote.

I like your list of NZ poets, I will explore it in the poetry library, as I think there is a rich vein of NZ material there.

Kay Cooke said...

PP - Well said. Thank you. As for your photography - wow! I always enjoy my virtual visits to Paris through your blog. (Sometimes I even stop for a coffee!)

Anna - I should've linked to the poets names I guess ... but they are all easy to look up. Yes I think more sharing of poetry across the universe would be great for all concerned - we can get stuck in the groove of our own world. Scottish poetry interests me too. I am enjoying it when it appears on 'qarritsilun' (not sure if I got the sp. right there so apologies.)

Cilla McQueen is our new poet laureate - just heard via Twitter. She is amazing. Start with her maybe ... her ancestors came from the island of St Kilda. Thanks Anna!

January said...

I, too, have felt all those things about the work of others. It keeps me energized to see what others are doing. Poetry is such an internal art that becomes dynamic when we share our work with others.

Thanks for sharing your work and your photos!

Kay Cooke said...

January - Yes, we all share the same feelings; it's so much part of who we are - which is all good. Thanks for your support.

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...