“You could see these poems as bone carvings made from the remains of short stories: gripping narratives reduced to the purest, most elegant minimum.” – David Larson, The Dominion Post
This week’s installment of the Weekend Name Drop features another New Zealand writer with an impressive resume who is pushing herself and others to explore new understandings through words and experiences, and to have some fun while doing it. Meet Anna Jackson.
Name: Anna Jackson
Creative fields: Poet, University Professor, Writers Festival Organiser
Location: Wellington, New Zealand
Best known for: Recipient of the 2015 Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, author of six poetry collections including Thicket (shortlisted for the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards), Associate Professor at Victoria University in Wellington, co-organiser of the inaugural Ruapehu Writers Festival held in March 2016.
My connection: Apparently, and according to Ms Veale (who has made an appearance elsewhere on this blog), I met Anna briefly during a school trip to Wellington last year in which we visited Victoria University to learn more about Hamlet. Embarrassingly, I don’t recall the encounter, but, very thankfully, I met Anna again via Facebook when she and Helen Rickerby invited me to participate in the Ruapehu Writers Festival in Ohakune. Since then, we’ve met in town to discuss links between the festival and Taumarunui, and, just this past week, Anna visited Taumarunui High School to run a poetry workshop for some of our pupils. I look forward to seeing her again at the festival next weekend.
Inspiration for this writer: Anna seems to have boundless energy fueled by pure passion for her fields as a poet and as an academic. Despite the tremendous task of organising a festival including some high climbers on New Zealand’s literary echelon, she’s made me feel I am a significant part of the events, trusting me to share the stage with the likes of Elizabeth Knox, Tina Shaw, Emily Perkins, Bianca Zander, and Nix Whittaker. She’s also said some kind things about my novel, Te Kauhanga. During her visit to our school, Anna expressed genuine interest in following up with pupils who showed promise and enthusiasm in their writing. She is more than a poet and academic, she is an educator and an advocate.
Why you should check her out and share with others: For those who don’t know, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship is one of the most prestigious literary awards in New Zealand, and that should be enough to interest us in Anna’s work. Beyond that, Anna seems to be one of those people who, as her own star rises, can’t help but shine some of her light on others, elevating them to their own new heights. According to poetryarchive.org, her poems are, “enriched with an eclectic array of themes, most notably the domestic, familial, childhood, imagination, the creation and dissemination of oral narratives, and the symbioses between physical and psychological journeying.” Heavy stuff, but bridging the space between common experience and loftier notions. Perhaps this same approach explains the quirky nature of the Ruaephu Writers Festival which includes horse trekking with children’s author, Stacy Gregg, a mountain waterfall walk, a poetry slam competition, and mountain biking on the Old Coach Road (I’m definitely in for that one.)
Sample of work:
With permission from Anna, enjoy this poem from her 2011 collection, Thicket, a poem she shared with our students during her visit to Taumarunui High School. (Originally posted on the blog, Tuesday Poem.)
I’d drink all night but stop at one glass
of syrah, aromas of pepper, tar,
black plum, and on the tongue
blueberry, licquorice, dark
chocolate, oh it is a dark wine
for us to drink before entering
the night in my cream and silver
car and driving, reeling,
not from the wine but from
the gypsy pirate Mexican music
on the CD (with an after-note, you
suggest, of Ukrainian folk), under
your canopy of silver stars.
Don’t tell me their names, tracing
out constellations like
a dot to dot puzzle. Let me
see the sky in the sky, as magisterially
as the sea can be seen in the sea
and the man in the man – speaking
of which let’s not meet your mother
with her photos of you as a boy.
Let’s just keep driving to
somewhere we haven’t looked up
on a map, some town without
any relatives to pin your features
down to theirs, where you can do
that silent thing you do at parties
in a party we’ll throw
just for us two.
This cross made up of freckles
under my ribs (two brown, one
red and slightly raised, one beige)
might look like the Southern Cross
still flying like a kite in the chaos
I yearn to see in the sky,
but come closer, inhale,
tell me my after-notes
and whether you think
I should call my car Margo or
Margaux, I can’t decide.
Finally, be sure and check out the amazing festival happening next weekend. Anna and her co-organisers have done a tremendous job. I am looking forward to our time in Ohakune and hope to see others there who may even have read this post.
Featured Photo of Anna taken by her daughter, Elvira Edmonds.
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.
Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand. He is the author of three novels: Redeeming Brother Murrihy, Te Kauhanga and The Chain. At next weekend’s Ruapehu Writers Festival, he will be chairing the Fiction Anthology session, speaking about Small Town Shadows, cycling with the poets and attending most other sessions as a writer and as a reader.