We will soon be celebrating the launch of Jane Arthur’s debut poetry collection, Craven, (VUP) 6-7:30pm Tuesday 1st October. Jane shared some excellent books and authors with us and posed the eternal question: “But where is the green sheep?”
ABOUT THE BOOK
‘She seems to me a poet of scale and embodiment. Her moments are informed by awe and intelligence – quick and seamless. They don’t have to try so hard. I felt novels and films in these poems. I thought: this is a poet of capacity.’
— Eileen Myles
Craven is an exceptional debut: Jane Arthur delights, unnerves and challenges in poems that circle both the everyday and the ineffable – piano practice, past lives, being forced onto dancefloors. This is a smart and disarming collection that traces the ever-changing forms of light and dark in our lives, and how our eyes adjust, despite ourselves, as we go along.
Cover design by Keely O’Shannessey.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jane Arthur was the recipient of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2018, judged by Eileen Myles. She has worked in the book industry for over fifteen years as a bookseller and editor. She has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University of Wellington. Born in New Plymouth, she lives in Wellington with her family and dogs.
WHY DO YOU WRITE?
I write because I love making something from nothing. I love that writing is entirely solitary, and that it’s part intellectual exercise, part mystery.
WHERE AND HOW DO YOU WRITE?
In bed on my laptop, with two dogs pinning me into place. Sometimes in the rocking chair in my toddler’s room, while he sleeps on me and I type one-handed on my laptop (this is how two-thirds of Craven was written).
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING AND HOW DID YOU DISCOVER THE BOOK(S)?
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, the debut novel by Ocean Vuong, discovered because his poetry collection is ridiculously good and I wanted to read more of his work.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?
This is a very random list that’s probably forgetting my favourite writer of all time. Louise Glück, because she writes like she’s creating crystal sculptures with beating hearts. Kate Camp, because she’s funny and observes things that are weird/obvious. Danez Smith, because they’re like a beautiful punch to the soul. Lois Lowry (especially the Anastasia Krupnik series) because she writes characters like I already know them, and Margaret Atwood, Curtis Sittenfeld and Meg Woltizer for the same reason. essa may ranapiri because nothing they write is self-evident until I read it, and they are so painfully, beautifully generous with their self, wisdom and thought process (ransack for Best First Book 2020).
WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky. Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood. The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter. My writing notebook. And my precious childhood copy of Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles, hidden at the bottom of the pile for safe keeping.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?
I really like Matilda.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?
Charlotte’s Web followed by Harriet the Spy, partly because I first read them as a child, so I’ve had more time to re-read them, and partly because they have something different to say to me every time I read them. Last time, Charlotte’s Web was a feminist manifesto about inequalities in domestic labour, and Harriet the Spy was about a child’s nervous breakdown.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?
I recently read The Idiot by Elif Batuman and, shit, the narrator was fabulously wrought. So today I’m going to say Selin, for being flawed and awkward and hilarious and horribly familiar.
WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?
Every book under the sun. One of my constant states of being is that I haven’t read anything, despite being a big reader my whole life. God knows what I’ve been reading this whole time, but it’s nothing, apparently.
WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?
Roxane Gay, Selina Tusitala Marsh and Whiti Hereaka. Inspiring absolute brainboxes. Please don’t let me get too nervous and cancel.
WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?
A ridiculously enormous vegetarian feast, because I always over-estimate how much to make and then I’m worried someone won’t like a certain ingredient, so I make heaps of different dishes just in case. And at least two cakes for dessert. Probably some Smitten Kitchen and some Ottolenghi, and my very excellent crispy potatoes.
HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?
My partner’s science fiction books are together. I have loosely organised mine into: poetry; NZ fiction; international fiction (my faves); international fiction (the B-list); non-fiction; children’s and YA novels; children’s picture books. They’re all in the lounge on shelves covering three walls. And old leatherbound books are on their own shelf downstairs.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?
“Here is the blue sheep, and here is the red sheep. Here is the bath sheep, and here is the bed sheep. But where is the green sheep?”
author photo: Ebony Lamb