“When my creative writing students criticise each other’s poems, they often talk about ‘flow’. ‘I don’t know about this line,’ they say. ‘It interrupts the flow.’ But poetry’s not maple syrup, any more than life is maple syrup.” – Tim Upperton
Wise words succinctly written – poetic even. And what else might you expect from an Ockham New Zealand Book Award short-listed poet? In this installment of the Weekend Name Drop, I feature another poet on the rise. Meet Tim Upperton.
Name: Tim Upperton
Creative fields: Poet, University Tutor
Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand
Best known for: Author of The Night We Ate the Baby (short-listed for the 2016 Ockham NZ Book Award for Poetry); winner of the 2011 Bronwyn Tate Memorial International Poetry Competition and the 2012 and 2013 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Competition
My connection: I first met Tim on Twitter, though I don’t recall the machinations that led to this connection. Only a few weeks ago, I met Tim in the flesh following a session on Speculative Fiction in Palmerston North, part of the Off the Page series hosted by Thom Conroy and Massey University. Thom had invited me to have dinner with the principal writers featured in the session, Jess Richards and Tim Jones. As I was introduced to Tim Upperton, we recalled the Twitter connection. It was then that I also realised I was meeting a poet of note, recently short-listed for the Ockham award for poetry. Since our meeting, we have maintained contact and I have had opportunity to read some of Tim’s work online.
Inspiration for this writer: One of the surprising rewards I received by attending the Ruapehu Writers Festival was a renewed interest in poetry and poets. I have been reading several New Zealand poets and meeting Tim and reading a smattering of his work has fueled this interest. As part of the lead up to the Okham awards, Tim has also featured in various posts and interviews and it is in these that I have found even more inspiration for me as a writer. In addition to the quote at the top of this post, I am delighted by some of Tim’s other commentary. Like myself, he recognises the light that literature can shed on the deeper and wider aspects of ourselves:
“Like Bill Manhire, when I see a capital Z in a piece of writing, I feel the pull of home. Baxter’s high country weather, the ‘muddy truckling of time with tide’ of Curnow’s mangroves, the excursions of Jenny Bornholdt’s ‘The Rocky Shore’ – these poems I remember because it is like remembering myself, where I am, and thus who I am.”
– Tim’s Writing Tips, Ockham New Zealand Book Awards Facebook post
And I love his frankness in detailing his writing process:
“I don’t think I have that much to do with my poems. What’s inside me just isn’t all that interesting. I sit at my computer, drink too much coffee, shuffle around the house, muttering. The computer’s on a small, cluttered desk in a pokey corner of the living room, with a window into the stairwell. There’s not much going on. I don’t think I’m particularly smart, or that I have novel ideas, or anything important to express. The winds that blow these days through my head are the winds of language, the odd things that people say, advertisements, reality TV, YouTube clips, the books that are piled around.” – New Zealand Festival: “Ockham Poetry Finalists: Our Literary Inspirations”
It has also been a pleasure to extend my connections to writers in Palmerston North, perhaps a more fertile ground for literature and poesy than many may believe. Tim Upperton is certainly one of the city’s shining lights at the moment.
Why you should check him out and share with others: Of course, you should check Tim out for his poetry, and there is plenty around online for you to sample. The Listener magazine has printed his poem, The Night We Ate the Baby (such a great title for a poem and a book of poetry); Sport has posted The Trouble With Poetry; and, if you can handle it, you can read this rather roguish sonnet on NZBooks.org.nz. Leading up to the Ockham’s, Tim was acclaimed by blogging reviewers like NZ Poetry Shelf’s Paula Green who describes the voice in The Night We Ate the Baby as: “sharp, forthright, witty, edgy, grumpy. It unsettles. It keeps you on your toes.” And Ashleigh Young, editor at Victoria University Press, notes that, despite Tim’s apparent resistance to poetic beauty, it is “in resisting poetic beauty these poems often arrive at another sort of beauty.” From what I’ve read of Tim, I agree. The beauty of his work stems from its freshness and challenge.
Sample of work:
Lady with a pet dog
One evening we’ll drink
sweet yellow wine,
while, in the west,
the sun drops behind
and we won’t at all mind
the passing cars,
or the gilded dust
that floats for a time,
and sinks, as it must.
Listen to Tim, himself, reading his poem, My Lazy Eye.
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.