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Massey poets triple-packed in kete series

Friay, August 22, 2014

Massey poets triple-packed in kete series

“Epic and cool” – that’s how the publishers describe their Kete Series, a unique concept to launch three Massey poets in one hit on today’s National Poetry Day .

New collections by Dr Leonel Alvarado, Joy Green and Tim Upperton are being bundled into hand-woven kete (traditional flax kits) created by local weavers as an inventive way to present the works of the Manawatü poets.

The Kete Series is the brainchild of Palmerston North-based boutique publishers HauNui Press, which specialises in alternative, ingenious ways to produce and market local books. Its owners David Lupton and Bettina Anderson have produced 50 limited edition signed and numbered sets. Individual copies of the books will also be available.

Mr Lupton, photographer and co-publisher at HauNui, says the company saw the chance “to do something really cool and special. We have this motto – we’re only interested in doing epic, cool stuff”.

The Kete Series launch at the Palmerston North City Library tonight celebrates award-winning poet and Spanish Language programme leader Dr Alvarado’s first collection in English. His book, Driving with Neruda to the Fish ‘n’ Chips, captures the Honduran-born author’s reflections on life in the Manawatü from an outsider’s perspective. He weaves memory fragments and myths of his homeland with tender, quizzical and humourous views of his new home and daily life.

For Joy Green, a creative writing senior tutor in the School of English and Media Studies, the launch delivers her first book of poems to readers. Titled Surface Tension, she has performed many of the poems in festivals and literary events, and has published her work in a number of anthologies in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Europe.

Dr Alvarado says working with HauNui Press has been a highly rewarding collaborative process, with the authors involved in concept, design and editing discussions. “It’s wonderful when you have a say in how your book is going to look,” says Dr Alvarado.

The issue of deadlines featured prominently in the year they have worked to bring the trio of books together, promoting Ms Green and Mr Upperton to finish their unfinished collections in time for the launch.

Being involved in the design was a bonus for Mr Upperton too. “A book of poems is an object in its own right, and if you can make it a beautiful object, why not?” he says.

The PhD candidate’s collection, titled The Night We Ate the Baby, is his second book of poetry. His first, titled A House on Fire, was published in 2009, and his poems have been published widely in New Zealand and international magazines and anthologies. He won the Bronwyn Tate Memorial International Poetry Competition in 2011, and the Caselburg Trust International Poetry Competition in 2012 and 2013.

Dr Alvarado’s English collection is just one of three poetry volumes he is launching this month. He is currently at the International Book Fair in Panama to launch one of two poetry collections in Spanish, titled Xibalbá, Texas.

It won the prestigious Central American Literary Award Rogelio Sinán, sponsored by the Technological University of Panama and the National Institute of Culture in Panama. Part of the book is based on his research on Central American immigration. In Mayan mythology, Xibalbá (shi-bal-bá) is the underworld or hell, which in Dr Alvarado’s book is what immigrants go through and find on their quest.

The award follows his success last year as runner-up in Latin America’s most prestigious poetry competition for his poetry manuscript Retratos mal hablados, which received a Special Mention in the Casa de las Américas Poetry Award. The award is based in Cuba and has been running since 1960. His book was selected out of 328 manuscripts by a panel of five judges from Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Uruguay.

The manuscript will be published here this month in a joint project by HauNui Press and Cuban-based Casa de las Américas.

The Kete Series is one of the first recipients of funds from the local Earle Creativity and Development Trust. The books retail for $20 a copy and $80 for a limited edition ‘Kete Set’. The kete were woven specially by local group, Raranga Manawatū, based at the Highbury Weaver’s Centre.

The Kete Series Book launch is tonight at 5.30pm, August 22, at the Palmerston North City Library.


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