Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hotel Emergencies by Bill Manhire

Hotel Emergencies

Thanks to The Poetry Archive for the recording.

Editor: Mary McCallum

The fire alarm sound: is given as a howling sound do not use the lifts ....

Thus the poem by Bill Manhire begins. And what a howl it is - the reading, one of the best I've ever heard: the way it builds and builds, the word 'sound' repeating and repeating like a siren - and with it all the other 'alarms' sounding from the intimate to the global. When I heard Bill read it the first time here in Wellington, I had goosebumps on my skin and a sense of anxiety that didn't shift for a while afterwards.

Every time since, I feel that way when I hear it. If you haven't already done so, hit play. Every time since, I feel that way when I hear it. If you haven't already done so, hit play.  The full text of the poem is available to read on The Poetry Archive site too.

There are more recorded poems by Bill at The Poetry Archive and a CD to buy.  Hotel Emergencies can be found in Lifted (VUP 2005, Carcanet 2007) - one of my favourite collections in the world.

Bill Manhire lives in Wellington, New Zealand. A much-awarded, much-loved poet and poetry Professor - despite people not always 'getting' his post-modern, enigmatic take on poetry - Bill was our first Te Mata Poet Laureate in 1997/8 and won the 2007 Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement. Until next January, he is the director of the International Institute Modern Letters, where I did my MA, and also has a position there as a 'Personal Chair'.

Bill's poem Nuptials  was posted by me on Tuesday Poem two years ago with a commentary that explored his self-confessed 'lyrical foliage', and here's a poem I wrote about Bill based on a talk he gave to my MA class once about how he went about writing poetry.

Bill's  NZ Book Council bio says: Manhire has a postmodern, or perhaps simply an alert poet’s, consciousness of the strangeness of language, the apparent arbitrariness with which meanings accrue to signs. 

Which is where Hotel Emergencies began. In Copenhagen, in a hotel, a sign....

Now take a look in the sidebar for a host of Tuesday Poets with a host of poems they've written or chosen to share this week. Especially exciting: the poetry train in Australia which sets off on September 7 from Canberra to Sydney with poets all aboard, and a poem from the new collection by Hue & Cry's (and Tuesday Poem's)  Sarah Jane Barnett. 

This week's editor Mary McCallum is co-curator of Tuesday Poem with Claire Beynon. She's a Wellington poet and novelist and creative writing tutor at Massey University, as well as a book reviewer and bookseller. She blogs at O Audacious Book. 


Claire Beynon said...

Fabulous, Mary! Yes, one holds one's breath as Bill surges through emergencies to the close. . . the gasping, unifying sound of the collective.

(Thank you for coming to the rescue this week, too xo)

Janis said...

This is one of my favourites of Bill Manhire's poems. Chilling.

Helen McKinlay said...

Great to hear Bill reading this...very cool poem!

Michelle Elvy said...

I've never heard this reading. Very cool. Thanks for posting this week -- such good variety in our offerings.

M40 said...

Mary, is the repetition of 'Every time since, I feel that way when I hear it. If you haven't already done so, hit play.' deliberate? Goes with the anaphora of the poem anyway :-)

I first heard Bill read this poem in an English lecture and my hands shook afterwards. Its not often that poetry makes me feel hyper-alive and agitated!

Ben Hur said...

Thanks, Mary. Nice to hear the poem read aloud as it brings facets to the poem that can't be enlivened on the page.