Monday, July 7, 2014

Something Thoughtful

Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts, or just life in general. You are free to agree or disagree with him.

            Reid’s Reader first appeared in late June 2011, so I have been producing this weekly blog for exactly three years now, always with the same format – “Something New” each week reviews a new book fresh from the publishers, the book in question most often being a New Zealand one. “Something Old” basically plunders my notebooks, wherein I have recorded particulars and comments on every book I have read for the last 20-plus years, although I also sometimes use this feature to goad myself into reading books that I have intended to get around to for years. And “Something Thoughtful” gives me the opportunity to discuss anything I will, at greater or lesser length.
In self-commendation I point out that this blog takes me many (unpaid) hours of work each week in both writing and reading. I further note that, experienced newspaper- and magazine- reviewer though I am, I know that, should I choose to analyse something in detail, this blog allows me to do so in greater depth than is possible even in our more highbrow literary publications.
At the end of each year I have tried to produce a little piece that sums up how the blog has been doing. In mid-2012 I noted that the total number of hits the blog had received in its first year was recorded by the counter as 20,000. By mid-2013, the counter stood at 100,000. At time of writing this piece, the counter stands at just over 214,000. I regularly take a break from the blog for six weeks over summer, and this year I took another six weeks off when I took a trip to Europe. Taking this into consideration, the blog now regularly receives between 2,000 and 3,000 hits weekly. This means that, even allowing for those who make a very brief visit and merely take a quick squiz, and even allowing for those who visit more than once in the same week, there is a regular serious readership of about 1,500 people each week.
Thank you for continuing to call.
I have an open invitation, for anyone who wishes to do so, to write a “Something Old” as guest reviewer. It is simply a matter of commending, in one or two thousand words, any book four or more years old which has particularly impressed you and which you want to bring to greater attention. Obviously, I cannot pay for such contributions, but (always excepting obscenities or libellous statements) I promise that I will run, unaltered, any such views, even if they do not coincide with my own views of the work being dealt with.
Regrettably, few people so far have taken up this offer, and in the last year only three people have contributed guest “Something Olds” - the playwright Dean Parker, the novelist Kirsten McDougall and Professor Mark Williams. If you wish to contribute such a guest review, contact me via the space for Comments below and give me your contact details. (I read and vet all comments before they appear on line, so no such contacts will be made public). Alternatively, if you are on my weekly e-mailing list, contact me by return e-mail.

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Essential New Zealand Poems, subtitled Facing the Empty Page, has just been published by Godwit Press ($NZ 45) and is being marketed by Random House. Edited by Siobhan Harvey, James Norcliffe and Harry Ricketts, this anthology takes the form of representing 150 New Zealand poets by one poem each. Poets represented range from the illustrious dead (Curnow, Baxter, Glover etc.) to the well-established living (O’Sullivan, Adcock, Stead etc.) to the mid-career to the just beginning. I thought long and hard about reviewing this publication in detail, and I may still do so at some future date. However, what holds me back is the fact that I am represented in the anthology myself, and it might seem imprudent to review something in which I have some sort of interest.
I’ll just say this: I am flattered to be included in the company the anthologists have picked. The one of my poems they chose is from my one collection (so far!), The Little Enemy (Steele Roberts, 2011). It is their choice of what they think my best, and though I think I have done better, I’m happy with that choice.
            I reproduce the poem below:

Skewed on a tip of rock
the straps of copper-coloured kelp
dance in the noon sea’s swell.

A slowly-shaken piupiu swings
out and in, on the rock’s hip,
by the tide’s easy forceful breathing.

Nature’s rough edge is softened
in the warm, wet soup of copper-
colour over steel-blue depth.

Disjecta  membra, they were wrenched
from their dark submarine forest
and drifted up to die.

Their dance is a death dance.
Soon they will putrefy and stink,
and hikers think dead weed is ozone.

Warm mammal blood in a cold sea,
a pod of dolphins butt through
hordes of surface-resting sea-birds.

The horizon’s mutton-birding islands
are aircraft-carriers;
the line of sky unarguable.

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