Monday, 17 August 2009

More compression

Read Jenny Bornholdt's The Rocky Shore (2008) in one sitting, laughing out loud, and when I'd finished surprised myself by having a proper cry, unusual for me, not sure why...

Her writing is without pretence. Clear and simple, like a child telling a truth, instantly evident. I have another seven minutes to say what is so good about it. Also I want to say that the word compression occurred in italics in the very first poem, Confessional.

...when people talk about poetry
they often mention
compression - yes it can

be that, but it can also be a great sprawling
thing. And Kenneth Koch has died."

I don't know who Kenneth Koch is yet.

I'm always a fan of good presentation, and Jenny Bornholdt's book is pleasingly done, the inside of the cover is a pure pale green, the paper is the creamy, slightly rough paper which suits poetry.

I read from the book to the women in my sewing circle, just dipping in here and there for good bits, and I was worried about imposing this on them, so stopped early - then later I looked up and one of them was sitting with her nose in it. The reading was difficult - trying to speak the line breaks - that didn't work.

Some of her best bits are what other people say, she sets them up nicely in the poem, you can have fun with her. I felt that all the way through, invited into her thoughts, an honour, to share intimacy. Her appraisal of a builder or plumber who said "Smells of soup, have you got a bacon hock in there?"

The loss of her father, the fear for the child - those are in the background, touched upon, left for you to think about. I shall re-read it and discover what it is that made me cry - probably the writing about Nigel Cox. He came to speak to a class I was in. He knew then that he was dying - such a sad man - but we didn't, we were pleased he was there, in his beautiful foreign, brightly striped shirt. His youngest, a boy, was five when he died. After reading his diary from Berlin, Phone Home Berlin, I thought, he must have seemed like a mystery to the Germans, they will have liked his manner so much, the gentleness and ability to get things done without being authoritarian, very Kiwi. I've written about that book previously.

PS - Jenny Bornholdt has been a Poet Laureate of New Zealand, and this book won a Montana Award in poetry (2009).

PPS - From Wikipedia: Kenneth Koch (1925 -2002): American poet, playwright, and professor, active from the 1950s until his death at age 77. He was a prominent poet of the New York School of poetry, a loose group of poets including Frank O'Hara and John Ashbery that eschewed contemporary introspective poetry in favor of an exuberant, cosmopolitan style that drew major inspiration from travel, painting, and music.

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