Poems give insight into earthquake experiences
13 June 2012
The earthquake experiences of an acclaimed Christchurch writer have inspired a new collection of poetry, published this month by Canterbury University Press.
Shaken Down 6.3 is the latest collection from Dr Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, who says the poems speak to his personal experiences of the recent earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan.
“What I wanted to do was produce something from the inside, inside me, so that it wasn’t an external view of the destruction and the clean-up attempts but was actually someone’s thoughts and feelings about what it was like to be in Christchurch and Japan. My hope is that these poems will communicate with others who have felt the same thing and also give readers an appreciation for what it was like to experience these events,” he says.
“In Christchurch, everyone talks about the earthquakes – it’s like Christchurch is the scene of a play and the script is about the earthquake. The earth has taken us over and it felt important to record that and talk back to it.”
The poems were written while Dr Holman was writer in residence at the University of Waikato in Hamilton in 2011. While the residency was for the full year, he was in Christchurch for the 22 February 2011 earthquake and visited Japan in April after the country was hit by the devastating magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami in March that same year.
“There are a couple of poems in the collection that were written in Japan and some of the other poems contain references to the earthquake there, so in this book the Christchurch and Japan events are entwined. I guess I was responding to what they were going through on a far greater scale than us and also acknowledging the Japanese students who died in Christchurch.”
Each poem in Shaken Down 6.3 is matched with a photograph taken by Dr Holman after the 22 February earthquake and includes an essay reflecting on whether art can play a role in mitigating the human experience of events such as natural disasters.
Dr Holman is a senior adjunct fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Canterbury. His previous poetry collections include As Big as a Father (Steele Roberts, 2002), The late great Blackball Bridge sonnets (Steele Roberts, 2004), Fly Boy (Steele Roberts, 2010) and Autumn Waiata (Cold Hub Press, 2010). He has also written Best of Both Worlds (Penguin 2010), a study of the relationship between ethnographer Elsdon Best and the Tamakaimoana chief, Tutakangahau of Maungapōhatu. He was recently awarded Creative New Zealand’s University of Iowa Residency for 2012.
- Shaken Down 6.3 by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, published by Canterbury University Press, June 2012, RRP NZ$20, paperback, ISBN 978-1-927145-30-2