An election statement from Titus Books
I suspect that there is a relationship between the gravity of the economic and political issues facing the north and the trivialities which currently preoccupy us in the South Pacific. Perhaps New Zealanders are so grateful that their country has not yet suffered the economic fate of the Greeks and Italians that they are happy to luxuriate in a whimsical and trivial political discourse.
Given the rather uninspiring nature of the election campaigning, I hope that even hardened political junkies won't mind me posting a press release from Titus Books which tries to put the poll on the 26th of November into perspective.]
On the 27th of November Vote for Literature!
A Statement by Titus Books
On Saturday the 26th of this month New Zealanders will go to the polls to elect a new government.
Informed, thoughtful voting is a necessary part of life in a democratic society, and the upcoming election has rightly generated thousands of pieces of writing - manifestos issued by parties, leaflets left in letterboxes by candidates, blogs set up by party propagandists, letters to newspapers by irate or delighted prospective voters, and analyses by trained and untrained political scientists.
But the mass of writing our election has created will have a short life span. From the morning of the 27th of November onwards it will be of interest only to political historians and paper recyclers. As the old saying goes, in politics even a week is a long time.
The great modernist poet Ezra Pound said that literature was news that stayed news, because it dealt with problems and questions that were rooted deep in humans and in societies. Since 2005 Titus Books has been publishing poetry, short stories, novels, and essays. The writing we publish rarely wins large audiences, but it doesn't go out of date either.
Publishing books is unfashionable in the twenty-first century. We at Titus have often been told by media pundits and self-styled technology gurus that the book is dead, or at least dying, because it is incompatible with the digital age, when people supposedly think visually rather than verbally, and when everyone is allegedly too busy checking their cellphone or e mail to do the sort of deep, exploratory, creative reading that great writers like Blake and Joyce and Peake have traditionally demanded.
We at Titus Books disagree with the cliches of the anti-literature crowd. We think that literature is as important to a healthy society as polling booths or public hospitals or vaccinations against tuberculosis. Election leaflets and billboards may tell citizens what to think, but poetry and literary prose remind them how to think, and how to feel. By taking us away from the buzz and blare of twenty-first century media and technology, literature helps reconnect us with our deepest convictions and emotions, and reminds us of the treasure houses of human history and culture.
We invite Aucklanders to vote for literature on Sunday the 27th of November, by attending the launch of two new Titus Books, Scott Hamilton's Feeding the Gods and Bronwyn Lloyd's The Second Location. Scott Hamilton is a widely published social scientist, and has a long history as a political commentator and activist. In Feeding the Gods, his Creative New Zealand-funded second volume of poetry, Hamilton draws on his involvement in a number of political and cultural controversies, like the ultimately successful battle to remove the Vanda 'the vandal' Vitali from her position as Director of Auckland museum, the movement against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq last decade, campaigns against the desecration of Maori sacred sites and history, and the battle against this country's Holocaust deniers. Hamilton also writes about more personal subjects, like the suicides of a number of his schoolmates at South Auckland's Rosehill College in the 1990s, his travels through the backblocks of New Zealand, the Outback of Australia, and Western Polynesia, and the bizarre dreams which are a side effect of the prescription drugs he must take for a chronic injury.
Hamilton's poems may deal with many topical issues, but they do not feature easy judgements or political sloganeering. Hamilton is preoccupied by history and by geography, and many of his poems create an eccentric perspective on contemporary problems by dissolving the boundaries between the past and the present, the near and the far. In Feeding the Gods historical figures like Hongi Hika and Karl Marx wander contemporary Australasia, the Outback fills with water, Ulysses cruises the South Pacific, and Maoist guerrillas quote postmodern poetry.
Bronwyn Lloyd is known for her careful reconstructions of the lives of Kiwi painter Rita Angus and composer Douglas Lilburn, and for the beautiful art books she produced for Pania Press. The short stories in Lloyd's The Second Location have the insights into the subtleties of human relationships which made her scholarship valuable, and the attention to detail which distinguished her work for Pania. Under Loyd's intense but not unsympathetic gaze, even small events like a civil servant's filing error or a visit to the beach become filled with significance. Bronwyn Lloyd's work shows us that the lives we live in our homes and in our minds can be far more dramatic than anything we see on television, and that the daily choices we make as friends and as family members can be as fateful as the doings of politicians or corporate executives.
In their different ways, Hamilton's and Lloyd's books show the continuing vitality of literature in the second decade of the twenty-first century. They are, in Ezra Pound's words, news that stays news. Titus Books is proud to ask you to vote for literature on the 27th of November.
Feeding the Gods and The Second Location will be launched at Objectspace Gallery, 6 Ponsonby Road, from three o'clock onwards on Sunday the 27th of November. There'll be beer, wine and plenty of home-baked food, plus a range of Titus titles to sample.
[Posted by Maps/Scott]