Sunday, April 11, 2010

A dialogue, a mild diatribe

"I've just finished reading Best New Zealand Poetry 2009."

"The title's wrong, you know."


"Because I'm not in it. Therefore it can't be the Best."

"That's pretty arrogant of you. But why should you be in it? You don't live there."

"I hold a New Zealand passport. I published poems in New Zealand journals during the year. The most minor of those poems is more major than the majority of poems included in this selection."

"Using whose criteria?"

"Mine, of course. But even my subjective is objective. What we are seeing here is nothing more than a collection of work primarily by people who did a creative writing degree awarded by the University that publishes this series, augmented by work from friends of the editor—who just happens to be 50% responsible for another travesty, Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets—& by work published in journals associated with said University. Then add a couple of well-known & -respected poets to give it weight. Voilà! I think it should be renamed Biased New Zealand Poetry 2009."

"Anything else you want to add to that?"

"Let me personalize it, push it through a sieve of my own making. Let's say that the 25 poems included were submitted to Otoliths. I would probably select three poems on their individual strength, another couple if they were part of a grouping. The remaining 20 I would reject outright."

"I'm starting to detect a definite undertone of bitterness here. Care to comment?"

"You're right, of course. It's a nationalist thing, a need for a sense of belonging. But when the nation doesn't want you to belong . . . Take Billy Apple, Russell Crowe—though you can't really take him anywhere—Anna Paquin. They've all gone overseas, but New Zealand still claims them as her own. Me? I feel stateless, & it hurts. I'd like a little recognition in my homeland."

"& appearing in a book, most of whose contents you think are crap, whose editor writes: 'Readers may find my choices formally conservative. I was conscious that this site is, for an audience outside New Zealand, a window on to its poetry and I suspect that on the web – even more than on the printed page – a poem that looks difficult will cause the cursor to stray, discourage lingering' would do that for you somehow?"

"I take your point. Let's just say that I would have liked to have been included in some of the earlier Best; & this year, because of the poems & where they were published, I thought I would be. However, having noted the 2009 editor's comments & the bias inherent in the selection, I'm not surprised I wasn't included. Nor, given the fact that most of the poems are not to my liking—note that it wasn't me that earlier used 'crap' in relation to them—am I all that disappointed, except mildly, in an abstract sort of way."


Post a Comment

<< Home