A Generation 'X'er

This Is Just To Tell Some New Zealand Poets

I was
on the road
and didn't
cabbage trees,
sheep, or

forgive me
the new car I drove
was so fast
and so sleek

Mark Pirie

Apparently simple, indeed guileless, and introspective, Pirie's poem distils generations of arguments about our poetry. Cabbage trees litter our 19th and 20th century poems - paintings as well. Likewise, sheep and macrocapa symbolise the success of overseas settlement. However, against the glamorous appeal of modern technology, who wants to bother about those old pastoral symbols, or arguments about our societal or spiritual welfare. The young watch Channel 4 while my vintage watch Country Calendar.

Wellington poet, Mark Pirie, is managing editor of HeadworX, a small press publisher of poetry and fiction. Its list has 47 poetry books, two of which are mine, Pingandy (1999) and Recessional (2004). I've found Mark an excellent editor and a good friend. His books are always well-presented and I'm pleased to be part of this stable.

Poetically, Mark is prolific, selfless, zealous and restless. He was co-editor of JAAM literary journal from 1995 to 2005. The NeXt Wave, his anthology of 'Generation X' writing was published in 1998. He has organised international conferences and winter readings. In 2008 he began a new periodical called broadsheet in a chapbook form with the aim of publishing high quality poetry at an affordable price.

His own work reflects a fascination with popular culture such as comics, pop lyrics and movies. The camera is one of the defining devices of the 20th century. Its use altered literature as well as art. At one level poetry can be defined as an arrangement of words, striking and/or entertaining. There's an element of composition, just as in photography. Then there is organisation, the craft behind apparent casualness.

The snapshot metamorphosed into the moving image. Film enhanced techniques of movement in time. 'Cut and paste' entered our narrative. As a poet, Pirie, like many of his contemporaries uses these devices.

Tom, his latest book was launched this year. It's a verse novel, a post-modern pastiche of many literary forms, about a struggling young Generation X student in Wellington in the 1990s. The music is alien country to me but the ideas are stimulating. They give me glimpses into how Generation 'X'ers think and move. Tom writes an essay on Hopkins. 'Gerard Manley Hopkins wasn't around to hear the blues or the beat of a drum machine but some useful comparisons can still be made.'

Mark has also moved into anthologising. With Tim Jones he has co-edited a collection of New Zealand Science Fiction poems called Voyagers which is being released at present. (Again, I declare an interest. I have two poems included.)

Harvey McQueen

(From Stoat Spring, Harvey McQueen's Blog, 30 March 2009)