There is a link below to a radio interview with Vanda Symon – the first half is between Vanda and Diane Brown, about Diane’s absorbing, funny-dark, wry-sad new poetic memoir Taking my Mother to the Opera; the second half is about Tender Machines.
It’s such a strange experience saying aloud some of the things that flicker in and out of thought. Lots of stops and starts as the mind tries to remember the dance steps it’s taken so many times on its own…But the radio seems like one of our more tender machines under Vanda’s supervision.
Reviews have started coming in for Tender Machines. They can be found here:
And also here
And also here
And also here
In an era of ever-shrinking space for reviews, today I feel like celebrating all the hard work, dedication, and probably bloody-mindedness of the reviewers and the publications who still get criticism into print and pixels.
It’s also a ‘shout out’ to the publicists at Otago University Press. I’d hazard they have to somehow strike a serene balance between persuasive and pushy. Having spent 2 fairly stomach-knotting years as a glorified telemarketer for a building firm in London, I bet some days, promoting other people’s wares feels like being an ice vendor during a hoar-frost. So my coffee cup is raised to those publications that still cherish and nurture book reviews (swig), and again to all the amazons of doggedness at Otago University Press (cup drained!).
I’ve written another piece about Into the River and the extraordinary interim ban it’s undergone this month. The article is up at Pantograph Punch; there is a link here.
The image on the cover of this new collection is called ‘Panel Parrot’, and it’s a response from 13-year-old Abe Baillie to the title phrase. I wanted something that fused the childlike with the futuristic; and I love the way it manages to suggest something animal and something manufactured.
To my own mind, Tender Machines refers to the cogs and pistons of a poem: a machine that helps us with the psychological work of surviving ourselves. Tender Machines are also the tools of our digital age; devices that help to keep us alive; they are also vulnerable physical human forms we love. I hope the phrase also suggests the repetitions we have to shoulder as caregivers.
Although the two small epigraphs quote William Carlos Williams and Don Patterson, who both refer to poems as machines, the title was seeded by a phrase of Annie Dillard’s. In her work The Writing Life, there is a passage about a writer’s routine, so resonant because it distills the grit and commitment any large task demands.
Every morning you climb several flights of stairs, enter your study, open the French doors, and slide your desk and chair out into the middle of the air. The desk and chair float thirty feet from the ground, between the crowns of the maple trees. The furniture is in place; you go back for your thermos of coffee. Then, wincing, you step out again through the French doors and sit down on the chair and look over the desktop. You can see clear to the river from here winter. You pour yourself a cup of coffee.
Birds fly under your chair. In spring, when the leaves open in the maples’ crowns, your view stops in the treetops just beyond the desk; yellow warblers hiss and whisper on the high twigs, and catch flies. Get to work. Your work is to keep cranking the flywheel that turns the gears that spin the belt in the engine of belief that keeps you and your desk in midair.
The Writing Life, HarperCollins, 1989.
That phrase ‘the engine of belief’ slipped into the poem ‘Suburban Story’, where I wanted it to conduct, among other things, the persistent work of love; the sharp relief of being pulled back from the precipice of loss. Echoes of Dillard’s snippet helped press out the book’s title phrase, and it started to run a current that other poems could plug in to.
Fuller publisher information is available here:
I’ve had a couple of new subscribers to this very erratic blog over the past week and it’s made me feel remiss for not adding new content. So I’m posting a link to the recent Transtasman issue of Cordite.
Having two sons reteaches me about how broad the spectrum of masculinity is; it also teaches me how every new generation has to address questions about gender and equality in their own terms.
Poetry, as ever, seems to have more room for slide and sway, for the tidal shifts of response, that are truer to the beautiful ambiguity of personality, the process of making a self (if that ever ends before death?) than, well, a prose blog entry dashed off before work.
Thanks for the new subs out there in the cyberwhirl: now that I’m inching ever closer to the final draft of the is-it-a-novel, I hope I’ll be able to post more often.