Mothers carry their babies back and forth across the carpet, across ice floes. The earth heaves, attempting to shoulder us all off. A leviathan stagnates on the sand while young couples survive winter by spending it indoors, playing Scrabble and learning French. There is something quietly apocalyptic about the world of this year’s Turbine and something else as well, a celebration of the smallness of our existence. The children of Turbine look for opportunities to do something magnificent, the adults just sign for their freshly laundered chinos and smile.
Motherhood, both real and imagined, features frequently in Turbine this year. Jo Aitchison’s alter ego Miss Dust ponders motherhood, Philippa Tucker takes us through the birth itself, Helen Heath handles the breast feeding, while Patrick Fitzsimons and Joan Fleming write about mothers close to the ground. Rose Collins, who gave birth this year not only to her IIML Masters folio, but also a real live baby, writes about a different seminal experience, the Europe OE, in her short story ‘Positano’.
This year sixteen of the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) Masters students are included in Turbine. The prose writers include not only Rose and Patrick, but also our resident MacMillan Brown Prize winner Cate Palmer, whose work gleefully references George Saunders as she slowly strikes off family members in her story, set in the disquieting theme park EarthWorld, and Sarah McCallum, whose essay 'spaces of a room' echoes with poetic qualities. Rayne Cockburn, 2010 winner of the Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing, considers F Scott Fitzgerald's author notes in an extract from her reading journal, a highlight of the Reading Room.
Over in poetry town, MA students Rhydian W Thomas, Trevor Hayes, and Mercedes Webb-Pullman can be heard reading their work. Aleksandra Lane, winner of the 2010 Biggs Prize, playfully engages the intersection between character and language; Kate McKinstry re-imagines Eurydice, with no Orpheus in sight; while Simone Kaho’s narrator wakes up covered in spidery script.
In amongst these student writers, is new work by editors and teachers of creative writing. Fresh work from Iowa is included in the form of two poems by visiting IIML lecturer, Alan Felsenthal. Included also are two poems by Bernadette Hall, who will be taking up a teaching fellowship at the IIML next year, while Chris Price is a Katherine Mansfield fellow in Menton, France. Cath Vidler, editor of Snorkel, has a poem of very few, but excellently chosen words.
The Christchurch earthquake occurred during our submission intake and it clearly had an impact on the literary world, given the large number of quake-inspired submissions we received. Published here are Lynn Jenner and Pip Adam’s pieces, which both explore the consequences of shifting tectonic plates, from a Russian perspective or otherwise.
The earth’s hostility manifests in other ways, too. Poems by Bernadette Hall and Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle are each subject to storms, and despite the fact that summer sidled into the room as we made our selection, the presence of snow and ice persisted, evidenced in poems by Jenny Bornholdt and Anna Jackson, both of whom can be heard reading their work.
The minutiae of modern New Zealand life is well represented, with Rachel O’Neill writing what may well be the only poem in the world about Trade Me, Alys Titchener detailing that unpleasant experience of walking through the Mt Victoria Tunnel, and Cliff Fell examining what is special about how we in New Zealand say fuck (apparently with tones of awe, or the voice of simple wonder.) From profanity to Ovid, Cliff traverses the high brow and the low, while Frances Mountier engages the local and the political in her piece ‘We Walk into the Valley’.
There are plenty of excursions away from modern life however, with David Coventry dreaming up a vast novel set in the sultry heat of post World War II Singapore, Trevor Hayes evoking the Mexican Revolution and Helen Heath looking back over her shoulder to expertly imagine the life and fingertips of Marie Curie.
Amy Head, Phoebe Smith, Isobel Cairns, and last year’s Adam Foundation Prize winner Ashleigh Young all write about encounters that prove, sometimes, love is neither an academic nor a scientific exercise. Meanwhile, Simon Reeve’s narrator falls for someone, or rather, something unusual.
We hope you too will find something unusual to fall for in Turbine 10. We are a little bit in love with all the work. And a little bit proud. In that biased and incredulous way that mothers are towards their little babies, as they carry them around and show them off. See, look! Isn’t she the most wonderful thing you’ve ever seen?
Sylvie Thomson & Hannah Newport Watson
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