Thursday, 25 July 2013

Floral thanks

I keep thinking of things I meant to tell you about The Linen Way, like the fact that it has links to audios of Melissa reading pertinent poems, and embedded audios in the PDF and ePub versions, as well as the link to a precious video of Melissa reading her work in 1987: a gorgeous young woman who was also fragile and terribly ill.

There are many people to be thanked for the fact of The Linen Way coming into existence, not least of whom is Melissa. As most of you know,  she is a treasure: sensitive, funny, wise, and a pleasure to work with. She discusses the writing of her memoir here.

Claire Beynon introduced me and Melissa, and was the go-between until we were both certain we wanted to take on this publishing venture. Claire visited Melissa earlier this year and while waiting for her taxi to the airport, redeemed the minutes by capturing half a dozen audio clips of Melissa reading her poems, such as this one here. I have goosebumps listening to Melissa's voice conjuringher poems. Claire's is the striking cover image for The Linen Way (a detail from a painting — oil on paper — titled 'Shadow and Shimmer' 2013), and the typographic design. She also helped me considerably in sharpening up the blurb.  Phew, friends. 


My mother Elizabeth Todd proofread an earlyish version (I know proofreading is intended for the last version but we had several lasts in this case), gave helpful feedback, and marvelled at the lucid insight into mental illness that Melissa's story gave her.

Caroline Jackson became Caroline Pope ( an autumn wedding) in the course of page-designing The Linen Way. She's always extraordinarily cheerful and competent no matter what oddities and final, final, really final requests I keep dropping in her lap.

 Melissa's very dear friend and colleague Ann Kjellberg of Little Star Journal contacted the prestigious Parnassus Review, as a result of which editor Ben Downing published an extract of The Linen Way in both and hard-copy and online magazines.

A handful of Melissa's friends and fans expressed their delight and anticipation on learning of the (long-)imminent publication of The Linen Way.

Poet Zireaux wrote fine and heartfelt lines about Melissa's work and intends writing more soon.

There are others who have supported and encouraged us along the way. To all of you, named and unnamed, many thanks.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

The Linen Way — published!

The author:
Read about Melissa here.

 The memoir:

Cover image and design by Claire Beynon.

 The content:

Passionate about poetry and seeking guidance to write her own, Melissa Green embarked on a Masters program at Boston University in 1981 and immediately caught the attention of her teacher, Derek Walcott, and his friend the Russian Joseph Brodsky. Giants of American poetry and Nobel prize winners, they recognized in her a literary peer with an innate and dazzling talent.
In a parallel reality, Melissa was living a knife-edge existence, her life an unpredictable and embattled odyssey between poetry and despair, a pendulum-swing between fervent, luminous writing and sudden, ferocious bouts of suicidal illness. In a black shipwreck of a house, she hid away for years, caring for her demanding and difficult grandmother.
That she survives is our blessing; that she has retrieved poetry from the abyss is a timeless boon. As poet Zireaux writes: … having travelled to the outer reaches of human experience …  with a fine-tuned lyre and Odyssean strength of purpose, Melissa Green reports her discoveries back home, in the language they demand.
In The Linen Way, Melissa walks the reader along the thin, perilous path between poetry’s affirmation of life and the unwelcome ghosts of hope apparently lost; a linen way, perhaps, but wrought also of fire and sulfur and the ironmonger’s hammer.

The rat:

It seems to have swelled Ratty’s head to be modelling the prototype Linen Way t-shirt, never mind the skew-whiff appliqué, or the fact that Lily-the-Pink has mislaid her sewing glasses (several pairs, up and down the country, along with earrings and necklaces) and doesn't necessarily notice loose threads or wonky seams. The newest ratadillo, Kawhia, is full of admiration and has made it her life's ambition to meet Melissa.
The Linen Way is available for 11 USD, in pdf, epub and Kindle-friendly formats, here.

Friday, 19 July 2013


Smug. Because of his new t-shirt. To be revealed with The Linen Way (at last! yes, I know) on Tuesday 23rd July.

Monday, 15 July 2013

RMB in transit (again)

This is the state of play. However, Ratty is jumping out at every rest stop to chew cheese and keep a few balls in the air: files of The Linen Way are still flitting internationally as the audios are embedded, the poems made to assume and retain their original postures, fonts restored and t's crossed.

More from the roadside in a day or so.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Winged Sandals: published!

The writer:
Martin Edmond

The ebook:

The content:

Having tried it before, he swore he wouldn’t again: Martin Edmond was a reluctant taxi driver on the streets of Sydney — three times taking up a trade like Charon’s, ferrying souls to keep himself in writing time. In this essay he explores the history and challenges of the profession, carrying the good, the bad and the delinquent through the underbelly of Sydney. He describes his ambivalence, coping with tedium, with idiotic or unsavoury behaviour and with his own early disinclination to work as a servant; how he made an accommodation with himself, finding a parallel in writing — and ultimately transforming his practice, allowing him to serve his clients with a kind of grace:
“Thus it makes perfect sense to treat them as honoured guests; and to do all that is in your power to bring them safely, happily, perhaps even changed, to their destination.”

Edmond is the sort of writer that makes you feel smarter, more creative and more civilised simply for having read him. Landfall Review Online

Winged Sandals is available for US3 dollars here. Anyone buying a copy of Winged Sandals in the next two weeks will be offered another 10k ebook free, by follow-up email.

The rat:

Monday, 8 July 2013

Entrancing audio

Ratty has heaps to do, but a wonderful thing happened, to stop him in his tracks. He's even let his tea grow cold. Dorothee has produced an audio book of her novel The Glass Harmonica: a sensualist's tale in her own marvellous, firm but musical voice.  Listening, I'm back in the common kitchen at our artists' residency in Can Serrat, Catalonia, where I heard her read from the work-in-progress eight years ago. It's a terrific production that does justice to her fine novel.

It's available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Go to Dorothee's website to choose your format. On Amazon you can listen to a sample and, if you join Audible, gain a free copy of the audiobook.

You can listen here to Dorothee talking on New Zealand's National Radio about The Glass Harmonica. 

(Martin Edmond's Winged Sandals? It'll be available tomorrow.)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Q and A with poet Melissa Green

What a privilege it's been to work with poet extraordinaire Melissa Green towards the publishing of her memoir, The Linen Way, an account of her friendships with Nobel prize-winning poets Derek Walcott and Joseph Brodsky, both of whom treated her from her student days as the colleague-in-poetry that she was. Not incidentally, the memoir also outlines her lifelong wrestle with mental illness, an odyssey made on a knife-edge between Thanatos and the Muse, between suicide and poetry.

 Melissa, can you recall what prompted you to begin writing The Linen Way?
In 1995, after I finished my first memoir, Color Is the Suffering of Light, people asked me when I planned to write the next installment, and at the time, I was convinced I’d never write anything smacking of memoir again.

It was a gesture that began it.

In 2010, Derek Walcott read at Lesley College near Harvard from his new book, White Egrets. Rather than stand at the podium, he sat ensconced in an elegant armchair center-stage and read in an old man’s rill, a startling trickle of sand where I’d always heard his deep rich basso. In my mind’s eye, Derek was still 53 as he had been when we first met, and though I knew in my head that 30 years had passed and he was in his 80s, I felt terribly moved when I saw how he had aged.

After the reading, Rosanna Warren, George Kalogeris and I went back to the Green
Room and I gave Derek a reprint of the book we’d worked on together, The Squanicook Eclogues. This time it was dedicated to him, as it should have been the first time. He beamed magnificently as he took the book, turned it from side to side, and when he read what I’d written inside, he slapped his hand down hard on the table with joy—exactly as he had when he’d read the manuscript for the first time in 1982—and said in the strong familiar voice of the Derek I remembered, “The Squanicook Eclogues*! The best thing I ever did!”

Joseph [Brodsky] wrote that the "Squanicook Eclogues" were wonderful, that Virgil himself would be proud of them. And he read some of the early Héloïse [mentioned next] and thought those poems were even better than the Squanicook.

[Ed: *honored with prizes from the Poetry Society of America and the Academy of American Poets.]
Will you tell us about your most challenging writing project?
The lyrical novel called Très Riches Hours de la Belle Héloïse is the book I’ve spent the most time on and lavished with the deepest love. I gave it a chance to appear in every guise, let it graze in the pastures as it wished, and did not hurry it. It was a very difficult project, presenting me with enormous puzzles I had to invent ways to solve, and taught me a galaxy’s worth about our wonderful English language.

It came to me in 1984 in a stifling attic room on my brother’s farm where I had been struggling for weeks in a very deep spell of despair. It was conquering my speech, my appetite, my movement; it had robbed me of reading, writing, sleep and any self-care. I was too tired to weep, the sorrow was too weighty, and I believed that if the tears began to fall, they would never stop.

One night in the humid silence, I suddenly heard a voice quite firmly and clearly say, “Héloïse and Abélard.” I sat bolt upright, confused and a bit alarmed. Who? Hero and Leander? Tristan and Isolde? No. I’d heard correctly. But what about them? I felt alert, awake for the first time in months. What was their story? I knew nothing about them. I racked my brain until dawn without success, feeling a kind of current course through my defeated self, and as soon as it was decently light, I did what I hadn’t been able to do for months: I washed. Dressed. Made tea and toast. Got in the car and drove to the public library and spent that Saturday sitting on the floor in the stacks reading their beautiful and broken love story. I was completely overwhelmed as my numb fingers combed through the card catalog. The voice in the attic had been forceful and emphatic. Yes, I had been given work. And knew two things: it was an enormous project. And that I wouldn’t be able to write it until I was a much older woman.

I was able to finish Très Riches Hours de la Belle Héloïse during a spell of hypomania, the same summer I wrote The Linen Way, right before I spent two months in the hospital. But it took me 27 years, actually. Like shape-shifting Proteus, the book would not stay still. It metamorphosed from poetry, to prose, to drama, to opera, back to poetry. I couldn’t find its organic form.  Héloïse had not appeared much in English literature other than in Alexander Pope’s poem. Whenever I felt like abandoning the project, I found I couldn’t. It sometimes seemed as if she had been waiting nine hundred years for her story to be told. Nine hundred years for me.

What writing pots do you currently have simmering or being filled or even sitting, lidded, on a cold stove?
I’ve just finished The Marsh Poems, much of which was written when I was a member of ‘Tuesday Poem’ and which appeared on my blog, melissagreenpoems.

Italo Calvino wrote a short lyrical essay about Paolo Uccello’s large, crowded and most famous painting, The Battle of San Romano. Vasari and his peers had written that Uccello, which means ‘little bird’, loved birds so much that his courtyard, house and studio were full of them, that they even perched and sang from the top edge of whatever canvas he was working on, yet none appear in any of his paintings. Calvino stood before The Battle of San Romano, and using it as a scrim between himself and the painter, asked him a single question: ‘Where are all the birds, Uccello?’  I can imagine writing an entire book of lyrical essays or perhaps prose-poems on paintings I love in much the same way.

Who are the writers you wouldn't want to live without?
There are writers I go to for the strength and power of the lines, their language. There are writers I go to because they evoke feeling, and their own feelings on the page give me enormous comfort. Theirs are also the books I would grab and run out with if the house were on fire:

G. Sebald’s novels
The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony by Roberto Calasso
Six Memos for the Millennium by Italo Calvino
Paul Celan, Miklós Radnotí, Czesław Miłosz, Osip Mandlestam, Hart Crane, James Wright, Thomas Hardy, Patrick Kavanagh, Emily Dickinson, Marina Tsvetaeva
Deep Song by Federico Garcia Lorca
Waterland by Graham Swift
Godric by Frederick Buechner

And bedside piles?
Barbarians in the Garden by Zbigniew Herbert
The Death of Virgil by Hermann Broch
The Jewel House: Elizabethan London & the Scientific Revolution
by Deborah Harkness
The Naming of Names: The Search for Order in the World of Plants
by Anna Pavord
Furore & Mystery by Rene Char
The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
Rodin and Other Writings and Letters on Cézanne by Rainier Maria Rilke
Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth 
Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

(Gosh, my reading list has just grown longer and richer.) Many thanks, Melissa, for all you've shared so generously with Rosa Mira Books of your work, humour, patience, wit and sublime poetry.