Coming of age in all its variations emerges in this year’s prose selection for Turbine, and there is a distinctly global feel as well. There’s plenty of travel to or living in other countries, although what happens in New Zealand is just as interesting.
We see a low key kidnapping in Portugal and an unsettling and creepy story about a student assignment on an island in the Marlborough Sounds. Young kiwi women work for low wages on a Moshav in Israel and in a mental hospital in Blenheim. Someone hides in a cupboard in Japan. Even those that play it for laughs – an Australian indie film actor hitting the big time, or the reality of living in rural New Zealand – have a darker side.
The reading journal excerpts seem to echo the prose through some mysterious sychronicity, for they were selected with no knowledge of what had been chosen. Ken Heaton talks about his impulse buy of a book about cooking and Japan, which chimes perfectly with Claire Brunette’s intriguing piece about Hana and her cupboard. Natasha Dennerstein’s references to psychiatric hospitals in the 1980s seem to shadow Aorewa McLeod’s descriptions of them in the 1960s as if they had somehow been working together although, as far as we know, they didn’t.
Nine of the eighteen prose pieces come from the 2011 MA students, including the 2010 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Award and 2011 Katherine Mansfield Short story award winner Gemma Bowker-Wright, and the NZSA Asian Short Story winner Rosabel Tan.
The interview with Albert Belz departed substantially from the prepared questions, and the recording made on a mobile phone in a strong Wellington breeze was remarkably and surprisingly audible. We included almost all of it, because it seemed to flow naturally and Albert said some pretty interesting things. Robert Cross took his usual set of magnificent photographs from which we could, sadly, select only one.
This year’s poetry selection is a living menagerie. There are animals everywhere, but the resemblance to Richard Scarry ends there. There are moths trapped in toilet bowls, hand shadows in the shape of weasels, women reading bird entrails and a dog with its arse in the corner of a snapshot. Bernadette Hall is seeing horses in the sky and sea, Kate Camp’s raccoons are rooting through the trash and Greg Kan’s bear suit wants to find you and take you to the moon. Animals aside, this year’s selection is funny, surprising and on the whole, kind of creepy. Reading through the selection again, we were happily reminded of the camel in Rachel Bush’s poem ‘One night and then several days,’ that “plunged cheerfully but terrifyingly on into the desert and would not stop.”
The poetry contingent of the MA workshop was small this year. There were six poets, four of whom are featured in this year’s selection. This meant the poets and prose writers were forced to fraternize. A visiting lecturer from Iowa once told us that at the end of the Iowa workshop, it’s traditional for the poets to play the prose writers in a game of baseball. Apparently the poets always lose. But we feel confident that although the poetry group was small this year, if they were forced to take on the prose writers they’d be able to hit a few home runs (although in saying that, we did just have to check Wikipedia to make sure home runs are in fact baseball, and not some other sport.) Maybe it’s all the time spent with the prose writers, but this year’s selection of poetry from recent MA graduates has a strong narrative drive. We’re featuring a poem from Natasha Dennerstein’s novel in verse, and we have work that comes from the strongly themed collections of Rob Hack, Micah Timona Ferris and Briony Pentecost.
We were also fantastically lucky to be taught by visiting lecturer Bernadette Hall, who was filling in for Chris Price, while she was away on the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship. We managed to twist Bernadette’s arm, and get her to submit a couple of poems, which are featured this year, along with a recording of her reading one of them aloud.
We were ably and uncomplainingly supported by Katie Hardwick-Smith and Clare Moleta at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Damien Wilkins was there to re-assure us when we had to make hard decisions, and selected the MA students’ Reading Journal extracts. And, for obvious reasons, Bernadette and Damien selected the pieces by Hera Lindsay Bird and Christopher Howe. Max Sullivan of the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre was patient beyond the call of duty as the deadline loomed.
As we review the final product, yes, there is a sense of pride, as well as regret for all the submissions that could not be included. It was a pleasure and a privilege to read them all. We hope you enjoy the small selection we’ve been able to publish.
HERA LINDSAY BIRD and CHRISTOPHER HOWE
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