Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading tomorrow

[& no, I won't be looking anything like this ...
from a booklaunch in 2006]

I've been asked to fill in at Poetry Live (presently based at the Thirsty Dog, K. Rd.) tomorrow - Tuesday 28/6, from 8 pm onwards - as the scheduled poet has had to cancel.

I guess the fact that Bronwyn is away all this week visiting her mother in Christchurch (Chilean ash-cloud willing, that is ...) makes me a bit more prone to drive out into the moody, stormbeaten city of an evening, so I've said 'yes'.

I'm not quite sure what I'm going to be reading yet. One idea was to intone some bits from my version of the Oresteia in an attempt to flog some copies of this innovative and fascinating work ...

I do feel that I should dedicate the evening to Dave Mitchell, though. He died last week, on the 21st June, after a long and protracted illness, and though he could no longer speak or read with any ease, he must been pleased to see Run Away Boy, his selected poems (edited by Martin Edmond and Nigel Young) finally out and getting reviewed.

He was, after all, the guy who started off the whole thing, back in the 80s. It seems truly extraordinary that it's been running ever since ...

Here's a little suite of photos from the last time I saw him, in Sydney last year, sitting to one side of the Poetry Symposium at the University of Technology, and getting a hug from Michele Leggott:

[Dave Mitchell]

[Michele Leggott]

[a great big hug]

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fifth Anniversary (Wood)

I started this blog on the 14th of June, 2006, so this is The Imaginary Museum's fifth anniversary. I'm afraid that the traditional material for a fifth anniversary present is wood (though modern gift-givers have replaced that with silverware, apparently). For myself, I'm sticking with the wood.

Why? On the one hand, because it's rather shocking to look at all those posts and see just how much time I must have spent typing away in these little blogger text boxes. What a woodenhead! On the other hand, though it's nice to think how much wood-pulp I must have saved by not printing it all out ...

This blog is only part of the story, though. From the very beginning I saw this as a project space: somewhere where I could try online text experiments. The very first thing I did with it, in fact, was to put up a bunch of topographical poems about Auckland, Roadworks, linked to a game-board with twin axes of time and space (okay, maybe that one wasn't all that successful, but I was looking for a three-dimensional way of arranging texts outside the conventions of the book-codex ...)

Quickly, though, I realised that the best way to use a single centralised site, like this one, was as a crossroads to other websites, each one of which could be adjusted to display different techniques and materials. The sidebar over there will testify to the sheer number of these experiments I've done over the past five years. Basically, though, they've boiled down to one big project per year - I'm not quite sure why. Every time I complete one of these things I tell myself Never again ...

So here they are, the "big five", in rough chronological order:


  1. (November 6-December 3, 2007) Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive: Bibliographical Aids for the Use of Those Consulting the Waiata Archive (1974) and the AoNZPSA (2002-2004) - Audio Recordings available in Special Collections, University of Auckland Library and in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

  2. This website serves as an index to the contents of the:

    Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive. Compiled and edited by Jan Kemp and Jack Ross, with assistance from Edmund King and Mark King. Materials collected by Jan Kemp, Elizabeth Alley, David Howard with Morrin Rout, and Richard Reeve with Nick Ascroft. (Special Collections Dept, Auckland University Library). [40 CDs Audio / 2 CDs Texts].

    which is a project I worked on pretty intensively from 2002 to around 2008, when the last of the three linked audio / text anthologies I edited with Jan Kemp (Classic, Contemporary and New New Zealand Poets in Performance) was issued by Auckland University Press. We still get quite a lot of hits. There are 200-odd poets' pages included on the site, and I update it periodically with new information (on request).


  3. The R.E.M. [Random Excess Memory] Trilogy (2000-2008):
    • (January 19-30, 2008) [The R.E.M. Trilogy, 1]: Nights with Giordano Bruno: A Novel.
    • (January 20-February 13, 2008) [[The R.E.M. Trilogy, 2 - The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis]: Who am I? Automatic Writing.
    • (January 20-February 13, 2008) [The R.E.M. Trilogy, 2 - The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis]: Where am I? Cuttings.
    • (August 15, 2006-September 3, 2007) [The R.E.M. Trilogy, 3 - EMO]: EVA AVE– Inheritor of silence / shall I be? / Black mass below us / above us / only sky …
    • (August 16, 2006-September 3, 2007) [The R.E.M. Trilogy, 3 - EMO]: Moons of Mars – Welcome / to the new reality / Nothing’s stranger / than the will / to survive …
    • (August 15, 2006-September 3, 2007) [The R.E.M. Trilogy, 3 - EMO]: Ovid in Otherworld – Wild geese draw lines / across an amber sky / fish bask / in frozen rivers / generators die …

  4. Between 2000 and 2008 I published a trilogy of novels, which are now available in their entirety on these six linked sites: one for Nights with Giordano Bruno (Wellington: Bumper Books, 2000), two for The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis (Auckland: Titus Books, 2006), and three for EMO (Auckland: Titus Books, 2008). Of course, they're still a lot easier to read in their original print copies, but one must continue to experiment with new formats (I suppose).


  5. Academica (1984-1995):
    • (April 14-August 22, 2009) John Masefield: Early Novels 1908-1911. MA Thesis (University of Auckland, 1984-86).
    • (April 14-July 22, 2009) Versions of South America: An Elusive Identity: Versions of South America from Aphra Behn to the Present Day. PhD Thesis (University of Edinburgh, 1986-90).
    • (August 22, 2006-September 26, 2007) Scheherazade’s Web: The Thousand and One Nights and Comparative Literature.

  6. This is an obeisance to the amount of time I've spent bumbling around in Academia: a complete online version of my MA & PhD theses and my post-Doctoral research (respectively: Auckland University, 1984-85 / Edinburgh University, 1986-90 / Massey & Auckland Universities, 1991-95). Since most of this stuff was composed in the transitional period before the digital age (the Masters thesis on a typewriter, in fact), it had to be scanned and re-edited before I was able to put it up online. Was it all worth it? Who knows? At any rate, there it all is, awaiting the curious ...


  7. (June 1, 2009-July 4, 2010) A Gentle Madness: A Catalogue of My Book Collection: Geographical by Locations & Indexed by Categories.

  8. It may not sound like much when you put it like that, but this was definitely the most laborious of these projects. It does seem worth all the time and trouble it took now, though - it's awful not to be able to locate a book you know you own when you really need it ...


  9. (February 17-June 11, 2011) Leicester Kyle: An Index to the Collected Poems of Leicester Hugo Kyle (1937-2006).

  10. And, last but not least, a work in progress: the online edition of my old friend Leicester Kyle's Collected Poems which I've been engaged on since the beginning of this year. It's just a tease at present, as the site is not yet complete. All you can access for the moment is the overall index, which lists all the works which will you eventually be able to consult in their entirety. This portion of the site does include a bibliography and reprints of all the secondary literature on Leicester I've been able to locate to date, however.

At times I despair at the magnitude of what still remains to be done on this project, but I suppose I can just continue to chip away at it gradually. Watch this space, though. I'm hoping to put out a limited edition of some late poems of Leicester's later this year, and the full text site should be online - albeit only in part - by July or so (I hope).

(By the way, any help in identifying the other person in this photo of Leicester Kyle in Auckland in the mid-90s - and the venue, and the photographer - would be greatly appreciated:)

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

At the Sign of the Unicorn:

i.m. Richard Wasley
(died 19th May, 2011)

Unicorn Bookshop (Warkworth)

I'm afraid I missed the funeral. Carli had left a message the night before, mentioning that the service would be held at Snells Beach on Thursday afternoon. Unfortunately that's one of the days I teach, so I couldn't make it. I sent a card, but I doubt even that arrived in time.

I've been going to his shop for nearly twenty years. It seems incredible, but that would appear to be the case. I remember stopping in Warkworth for a coffee sometime in the early nineties, and asking the waitress just as an afterthought if there were any nice bookshops in town.

"Oh yes," she said. "Just down that sidestreet, in the little building with the unicorn mural on the side." (That was in the days when Richard conducted his operations from a strange little wooden annex just down from the medical clinic - before shifting round the corner to the brighter, more modern premises pictured above.)

We wandered up, had a look around, bought a stack of books. Richard (I didn't really know him at all then, or for some time afterwards) seemed to have some kind of secret source of new and nearly-new literature and poetry books: there were bright Penguins, stately AUP biographies and histories, masses and masses of anthologies, slim volumes, novels ... everything except Mills & Boons or Readers Digest Condensed Books: those he would have scorned too much to give them shelf-room.

[Richard Smallfield: Richard Wasley]

Here he is in better days. The last few times I saw him, he was far more haggard than that, and terribly thin - still recognisably the same person, though. Richard could be quite a bolshie customer at times, to be perfectly honest. I remember once overhearing him denouncing some random suit who'd come in to take shelter from a rainstorm outside and who was talking loudly and inconsiderately on a cellphone in the middle of the shop:

"D'you think this is a telephone booth?"

"Excuse me?"

"You can't talk on your cellphone in here."

"I was going to buy something, but now I won't."

"Good. I don't want you in here anyway. You're barred!"

It certainly put you off haggling about the - very reasonable - prices he charged for his books, but I have to say I liked his attitude. The comfort of real booklovers always mattered far more to him than currying favour with the hoi polloi ...

In fact, the very last time I met and talked with him, he was about to walk down into town to have it out with another local bookdealer who'd put in a complaint about Richard's prices on TradeMe. The prospect obviously filled him with glee. He wasn't too steady on his feet, and his voice was going, but the idea of going downtown and having a good old barney with some interfering neighbour was clearly the kind of thing that was keeping him going, long past the predictions of his doctors. That, and the love and patience and unstinting care of Carli Clark, of course ...

[Masonic Hall (Warkworth)

It sounds like a cliche to say that going to Warkworth will never be the same again. There are other bookshops there, nice cafes, shops, but nothing could ever replace that strange metropolitan haven of a shop, the little kingdom Richard built.

The regular poetry readings he held in Matakana will be missed too (we read there together, in the little church, on one occasion a couple of years ago). Poetry was one of his principal passions, in fact: writing it and reading it aloud. He'd always intended to put out a book, he told me, but somehow in those last months it didn't get done - there was time for it at last, but somehow not the energy, the passion you need. He leaves behind a good deal of work, though, a lot of memories of those curious evenings when he held court with Henry Reed's "Naming of Parts," poems by Charles Causley, Stevie Smith ...

I'll never drive north from the Bays again without thinking of him and missing him, missing that little bookish haven he built for me and others like me, people for whom a rummage through an old bookshop has something paradisal about it, the joy of discovery, the imminent prospect of something extraordinary waiting just for you ...

Go in peace, Richard. I guess the best thing might be to adapt Dean Swift's epitaph: "He has gone where fierce indignation can lacerate his heart no more - depart, wayfarer, and imitate if you are able one who to the utmost strenuously championed liberty" - albeit the liberty Richard championed was the freedom of booklovers and poetry fans to enjoy a moment's peace in the midst of their stressful days ...

[Swift's Epitaph (St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin)