Ladies, gentlemen, let the evening begin.
Kia ora koutou
May I begin by offering introductory thanks to the New Zealand Poetry Conference for hosting this launch, to Janet and 仁 surrender, the reason why we are here, and to Rachel Scott, Victor and the Otago University Press team who have published this new collection.
Aroha, aroha, aroha all.
Let me open with a reading of Janet's 'where people are', page eleven.
if you think now you can leave me alone
to get on with my independent learning
i am actually a left margin justified crazy person
who agitating at her map in the crowded concourse
will talk to herself
and wheeling down the mountain
i am the green sweep of the mendicant’s robe
drink in his tragic theatre
his rictus despair
not giving any money to a beggar
i am that woman
Janet Charman in 仁 surrender is indeed 'that woman'. This is a sumptuous synthesis of contemplation and candor. As the title suggests, the work here is infused with Asian religion, literature and humanism, the sign 仁 translating as Ren, the Confucian virtue for altruistic good feeling and symbol for man or co-humanity (depending upon your viewpoint, a discrepancy Janet, the astute, the capable writer she is, more than teases around with in this new collection).
The multiple artistic and philosophical strands in this book coalesce through epic poems like '101 snapshots', a series of creative haiku inspired by author Chen Li, and the homage to humanity, 'where people are'. The titular poem, meanwhile, recongifures renditions of 仁 through a feminist gaze, an emblem for the act of translation, its vibrancy and shortcomings which also figure in the book. Along the way the musings of Doris Lessing and Robin Hyde, Woolf, De Beauvoir and Riemke Ensing's important anthology, Private gardens are additional sources of reflection.
Throughout language, its power as transformative agency and limitations, frames us, as in a poem like 'my Korean is better'. In short, this is a deeply immersive, deeply powerful collection. And Janet I thank you humbly for crafting and offering it.
I charge you all with raising your glasses, actual or symbolic, to Janet and 仁 surrender. I close out proceedings by saying this book is well and truly launched and by counselling you wisely to buy, buy, buy.
Siobhan Harvey is a poet, prose writer, editor, reviewer, and teacher. Her writing has appeared in a wide range of publications and anthologies and has been broadcast on Radio New Zealand. She has edited and co-edited several anthologies, including Words Chosen Carefully and Essential New Zealand Poems. Her first collection of poetry Lost Relatives was released in 2011. Harvey won the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award and her winning manuscript was published the following year as Cloudboy. She was runner-up for the 2015 Janet Frame Memorial Award, and won the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry. The Poetry Archive (UK) holds a 'Poet's Page' devoted to her work.