Book Review: New Sea Land, by Tim Jones

Available in selected bookshops nationwide.

cv_new_sea_landYou can lick the salt off this poetry, half expect sand to spill from the centrefold. Tim Jones’ latest collection, New Sea Land, is part history, part rattling fortune-telling. It is a slap on the face by a wet fish, a digging up of heads-in-the-sand. Jones has spied a calamity from the shoreline, an oncoming deluge. History is repeating on us, and this time the tide is coming in full.

New Sea Land is salty, but it is not your run-of-the-mill nostalgic beach jaunt. The sea and land are dispassionate players in a human-instigated ecological meltdown. Jones’ sea ‘does not mean any harm’ and his ‘sea does not apologise’. The sea is a desultory child, nibbling at the edges of things, erasing ‘Beachfront property / … with the stroke of a pen’.

Jones’ work is didactic, but not earnest at the expense of a playful image or a great one-liner. He pokes tongue at the itch for beachfront investments, and the securing of LIM reports. In a great little anachronism, Jones has Noah’s (of the Ark) carpenter crew curse ‘zero hours contracts’ and swim away from the job. Then there’s an alternative history played out, wherein Captain Cook and Dracula take ‘tea and blood together’ in Kealakekua Bay. It is all fun-and-games, but the broader picture is sober and confronting.

The world is falling apart at its seams. This is a New Zealand where climate change is playing out. The sea floods Lambton Quay, rolls over childhood homes, and meets householders at their doorsteps. People are left with new geographies of which to make sense. Jones gives us a periscope to a time where myopic vision has crystallised into something tangible. It is only once the impact is ostensible that we realise we ‘backed the wrong horse’.

There’s a passing of the torch, from one generation to the next, but one gets the sense that the flame has gone out. Jones’ people are asleep or in denial. They leave a legacy of rash decisions, a lack of investment in a future beyond their own:

‘You slept until you lost the path,

and woke to find your children’s path
blocked by rocks you long ago set falling’

New Sea Land glances backward, as much as it forecasts. It reflects on history, memory that ‘renders everything askew’. Jones stresses the importance of cognition of times-gone-by, in the navigation of a future. His people, though, are ‘so eager to obliterate the past’ that they ‘wash away the stepping stones’. Condemned to repeat past error, through disavowal of history, we find ‘all our futures / are hostage to our actions’.

Jones’ poetry is a caution and a premonition. ‘Nature doesn’t stuff around’. The sea and the land couldn’t care less about where we’re heading. Jones writes so well, you might lose sight of the fact you’re getting cold water thrown at you. You can lick the salt off this poetry, by all means. But Tim Jones doesn’t give you halcyon coastlines or ice-lollies on the beach. This is poetry that knows what’s coming, and insists you ‘keep your life raft close at hand’.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Morton

New Sea Land
by Tim Jones
Submarine (an imprint of Mākaro Press)
ISBN 9780994129963

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Book Review: Shortcuts: Track 1, speculative fiction by Paper Road Press

shortcuts-track-1_front_draftbAvailable in selected bookshops nationwide.

From indie publishers, Paper Road Press, we have the first in what will be, hopefully, a series of anthologies: Shortcuts: Track 1. This installment offers up a collection of fine speculative fiction from a selection of New Zealand authors. The tales are diverse and engaging, long enough to immerse and engage the reader, but short enough to devour in a single sitting.

We begin with ‘Landfall’ by Tim Jones, a chilling near-future tale. New Zealand has become a distant haven for refugees escaping a world altered by climate change. However, it is not, truly, a haven, for the beaches are patrolled, and outsiders − and those who aid them − are greeted with guns and hostility. Nasimul is one such refugee, fleeing his homeland of Bangladesh. Donna is a soldier, trained to hunt and kill, but there is compassion amongst the cruelty.

This is followed by the somewhat more fanciful, ‘Bree’s Dinosaur’ by AC Buchanan. Deformed banana cake, a science project, a family secret and a meteorite, all converge into an explosive conclusion.

Grant Stone’s ‘The Last’ is a more haunting, fantastical tale, with folklorish elements. The narrator, Rachel, is a reporter − one of the last true rock reporters − sent into the countryside to interview the enigmatic Katherine St. John, singer and songwriter. But there is more to the woods than meet the eye, as Rachel is soon to find out.

Lee Murray and Piper Mejia have teamed together to bring us ‘Mika’. Mika is from Aotearoa, has set out on a mighty journey in her waka (a far-evolved descendant of the traditional canoes) to New York, seeking the cure for the disease that is ravaging her family. What she finds, instead, is a conspiracy, an unlikely ally and a child with a dark past and an even darker future.

Probably my favourite in this collection is ‘Pocket Wife’ by I K Paterson-Harkness. It introduces strange future-tech: miniature replicas of a person that acts as a sort of surrogate for the person, allowing them to see, hear and feel everything that the doll feels. Our narrator may be away on business, but his wife is watching him, through the eyes of her Tiny. When the replica malfunctions, we are thrown into a darkly humorous comedy of errors.

The final tale, ‘The Ghost of Matter’ by Octavia Cade features Ernest Rutherford − but not entirely as we remember him.

Overall, Shortcuts is a fine and entertaining collection, offering a bit of everything: chilling dystopia, nifty future-tech, a harrowing journey, and much, much more. I look forward to seeing what else the authors, and Paper Road Press, have to offer.

Reviewed by Angela Oliver

Shortcuts: Track 1
Edited by Marie Hodgkinson
Published by Paper Road Press
ISBN 9780473336486

Email digest: Tuesday 30 July 2013

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Book review

Book review: The Blue Coat, by Elizabeth Smither

Events

Robert Sullivan is the featured poet at Poetry Live! Auckland tonight, 8pm, Thirsty Dog, K Rd….

Warhol: POP is tomorrow night! Experience The Factory brought to life in 2013. Tickets limited, complimentary drink

Book News

Buy a Kobo from one of your local independent booksellers. Time Out in Mt Eden have just started selling Kobo e-readers!

Awards News

#nzpba NZ Listener’s Guy Somerset has summarised their coverage of the finalists

#nzpbaNZ Post Book Award finalist taster: pages from PATCHED by Jarrod Gilbert 

#nzpba Finalist The Darling North reviewed by Rachel O’Neill

#nzpba Facebook book giveaway: The Big Music

Author Interviews

A glimpse behind the crime scenes in the lovely Copenhagen
Tim Jones talks with Wellington author Latika Vasil about her new short story collection “Rising to the Surface”

From around the internet

Designing Ebooks (just as important as paper books)

Congratulations Raymond McGrath who won the What Now Best Children’s Music Video for ‘It’s Not A Monster, It’s Me!’ 

Tuesday poem

Surface, by Peter Munro