Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hamilton Book Month


pictures from the Hamilton Book Month facebook page:

Mark Houlahan introduces me

me reading poems

Mark and I talk


Well, I'm pleased to announce that I've been asked to take part in two events in this year's Hamilton Book Month.

The first is a poetry workshop for secondary school students at Wintec at Thursday 27th August at 1 pm:
Students from five Hamilton secondary schools have been selected to participate in a two hour writing workshop held at Wintec with Dr Jack Ross. The interactive session will cover a range of writing techniques and expose students to a variety of poems including haiku and tanka and give ideas for creating and developing their work.

Dr Jack Ross is a senior lecturer in creative writing in the School of English and Media Studies on Massey University's Albany Campus. He has written and edited a range of books, magazines and journals including Landfall, Poetry NZ and Spin and his work has appeared both here and overseas.

The second is a poetry reading at Creative Waikato Big Space (131 Alexandra St, Hamilton) on the same day at 6pm:
Jack says, "I once read that more people write poetry in New Zealand than play rugby. Whether or not that's true, the fact remains that it's one of the things we're keenest on (and best at) as a nation".

"For myself, all I can say is that it's the best way of sorting through feelings, thinking things through, and making sense of the universe that I know of. It's not so much that I choose to write it as that I have to".

Quotes on poetry:
Once you’re caught on the plateau of your own “poetic practice” (your “voice,” if you prefer), no further progress is possible. Even Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a series of secular hymns extolling the cleansing properties of conflict in the opening days of World War I before he came to his senses.

Poetics may sound a bit tedious at times, a distraction from the sheer fun of monkeying around with language. … At its best, though, it is meant to act as an antidote to such systems for normalising the aberrant and abhorrent. In a sense, then, Shelley was quite right when he called poets the “unacknowledged legislators of the world.” It’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it.

— Jack Ross, “Trouble in River City: How I learned to stop worrying and trust poetics." Poetry NZ 47 (2013): 93-103.
Jack will be in conversation with Mark Houlahan about his writing and will read from his work and take questions from those present.

I have to say that I'm immensely chuffed to have been asked. Last year Elizabeth Knox was in this slot, so you can see I have some pretty giant shoes to fill ...

Hamilton (nakedbus.com)


Richard said...

Good on you Jack! I see your comments. I would never say that I "have to write". I'm not sure what I would say about the so called creative urge. I think that I need (or have a certain times in my life) to be able to read and enjoy literature (or read say, books on science or art or whatever, or Sherlock Holmes as well as The Reader's Digest (quite informative) and whatever and whoever else I read: I certainly read a lot as a teenager and younger). But there have been long years when I hardly read a novel or a poem, and for more than 20 years I didn't see any need or have much desire to write anything. Then I started to feel concerned about my life when I became 30. I thought that I should be doing something more in the area of creative writing or art of something (and I had started in 1968 by sending a description - very verbose and literary but based on my experience - of the Freezing works (Hellabies where I had been a knife hand in a few seasons): Mate, who I sent it to, wanted a story, it was when I had decided that I would be writer, and they wanted me to amplify it to a story. I was excited greatly by this and typed it all out carefully over some weeks and sent it and they published it. It was the first thing I had submitted to anyone. After that I tried some poems but they weren't very good.
Then I got interested in other things including political or "street protest". (this was leading into 1969). I also got married, and trained to be a Lineman and so on, so in those years I moved away from literature and lost interest in it. There was a similar pattern with my interest in Chess. Instead of taking up writing, I started playing and studying chess again when I was 30 so I played in the 80s.
But around that time I recall reading a biography by Sargeson and enjoying it a lot. I did read a few things and by the late 1980s I was taking courses by correspondence and so on.

For me, after I discovered the live readings, it was almost as if I had to read to live. I had to read. But I think this was a reaction to a number of things that had happened in my life. I think if all had been well or better in my life (my father and father in law died, I changed jobs, then I separated, decided to start a business which didn't do too well, and so on...)

But since I stopped live readings (which I fueled by booze) writing is not something I have to do. I still chug along. Mainly I simply like copying things out of books I am reading.

However, one good thing is, there are many books to read! So, thinking of book week, I think of all the books I have yet to read and many I wish to re-read.

Also some writing projects. I wonder if everything who becomes habituated to a way of life - rugby - if one was good at rugby, even on retirement it would no doubt be fulfilling training others. You might read also but that would be what "you had to do".

So while I love much poetry and some writing myself, I am dubious of these romantic claims for literature or in fact any of the arts. I think that is what Coetzee or his protagonist more or less says in 'Elizbeth Costello'...and I recall Scott Hamilton once when some of the US Language poets and others associated including critics came out wanting war against Iraq etc as they threatened the great culture of the West (and, it seemed, everywhere), that they valued poetry more than people.

The rest is history and fueled a debate with Geraets etc who were "postmodernists" or Paterians! It all worked its way out though but some interesting debate ensued and is ongoing if not spoken out loud everywhere.

Yes "I too much debate with myself"...and they are "thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season" (something like that)...

But all the best for your creative writing course and the reading.

Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Richard,

I guess I wanted to say something encouraging, given the workshop is for High School students, and the first version of my remarks was a bit too cerebral.

I do take your point that "having to write" is a romantic notion. I do, nevertheless, believe that - in my case, at any rate - it does tend to alleviate other neurotic symptoms of anxiety. So, yes, I do see it as therapeutic in some ways.

Whether that translates into a similar benefit for readers is, of course, far more debatable. But then you never know ...

best, jack

Richard said...

Yes, I know that the gist of what you say is on track. This kind of issue was debated once at a forum in Auckland. I recall Alan Loney, Brunton and some others there. Loney didn't want the 'unacknowledged Legislators' thing but in fact those things are a kind of rhetoric that Longinus talks about (if it was he indeed). I think he comes close to a need. It is 'high art' and, yes, almost a kind of therapy. A kind of elevated therapy for the artist and the people who want something more than the usual. That is 'the sublime'. Someone such as Harold Bloom has spent his life 'in creative therapy' reading and discussing (in sometimes almost mystical-philosophical terms, his literary criticism is a kind of religion for him I think and his enthusiasm is contagious, even if you don't feel that he is the ticket when it comes to talking about the more outre stuff); and my mother had listed 1600 books she read, and they were not all 'easy' books there was quite a range. But for her it was a great thing, an entertainment of a higher kind than say TV and a comfort also: and there is nothing wrong with it being, in some way, a kind of therapy that becomes quite exciting and "addictive". I just wondered how absolute these things are, of course from my own perspective.
PNZ fulfills a great place and I remember Patterson for example being very encouraging to me when I sent in a few poems. It is more inclusive perhaps than maybe Brief or in a different way Landfall (although we need all kinds of such mags.) People can do worse than 'be writers' - I made the comment also because I thought there might be more comments about how 'essential' art or writing is.

Richard said...

Hi Jack. I recall you once mentioned you were reading Stefan Zweig's book (theme of chess). What is your view of Zweig? I have only looked on Wiki. Is that book good, any others?

I appreciate your book posts as for example via you and Scott Hamilton I started reading J G Ballard (although I's seen the movie 'The Empire of the Sun' and thought it great I hadn't connected him as the writer although I sold a first of that once). I've since read that and have become a big fan.

I did read a lot of Sci Fi at one stage as a teenager but I didn't always recall the writers as they were in library book (short story collections).

The stories are great and I liked 'The Drowned World' (brilliant!), 'Crash' (I have to concede this was a shock even to me but I think highly of it in recollection and much of it as I read it), 'Empire...', 'Super Cannes' and some others. I want to get more and possibly a complete stories.

I mention this as well as the Zweig as I was looking for some info on Ballard and saw your obit blog post, which I didn't take so much notice of at the time.

Regards, RT

Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Richard,

I do like Stefan Zweig's chess book very much, and find his fiction, particularly the novellas - well worth reading. I guess his reputation has faded a bit, given the peculiar circumstances of his life, and the amount of time he spent writing potboiler biographies. He really was a fascinating character, though - ending up in Brazil, where he committed suicide.

Ballard is one of my touchstones: even when he's off-form he's still good, but at his best ...!!