Q & A with Helen Rickerby for National Poetry Day 2016

Helen Rickerby is one of the managing editors of the literary journal JAAM and is the force behind Seraph Press, the publisher of the latest book from Johanna Aitchison, who features in Poems in Your Pocket 2016 for National Poetry Day. A poet in her own right, Helen has had four collections of her work published, Abstract Internal Furniture (Headworx, 2001), My Iron Spine (Headworx, 2008), Heading North (Kilmog Press, 2010), and Cinema (Makaro Press, 2010). Here she answers a few questions from our national coordinator about poetry, her plans for the press, and her advice for poets wanting to get a book published.

[Helen Rickerby - photo by Sean Molloy]

1. Name three NZ poets you think everyone needs to read at least once in their life. Why?
This is a hard one. There are so many poets I'd like people to read, and let's take it as a given that I think people should read all of the poets I have published. But my semi-random list of three others includes James K. Baxter, for his iconicness, his heart, the way his work changed and developed, and how he engaged with this place; Anne Kennedy, for the way she pushes the boundaries of poetry in her long narrative poems; and Gregory Kan and his book This Paper Boat, which came out earlier this year and which I loved, again for its stretching of what poetry can do, and its merging of biography and autobiography. On a different day, I would have a completely different list of three.

[You can catch Gregory Kan at All Tomorrow's Poets in Auckland on National Poetry Day and Anne Kennedy at Seraph Press Poets and Friends in Wellington]

2. What made you want to publish Johanna Aitchison’s Miss Dust?
I knew Johanna's work from her previous publications, especially A Long Girl Ago, and knew I liked her work's playfulness and almost deconstruction of language. When I read the manuscript for Miss Dust it had what I'd enjoyed about her earlier work, but it had also developed – I think in an even richer, deeper direction.

3. What can we expect to see next from Seraph Press?
The next thing Seraph Press is publishing is the first two chapbooks from the new Seraph Press Translation Series. One will be contemporary Italian poetry, translated by Marco Sonzogni, and the other will be contemporary Greek poetry, translated by Vana Manasiadis.

4. What's one piece of advice you have for a poet wanting to get published?
My big bit of advice is to read. Read all the good poetry you can get your hands on, especially contemporary poetry. And write, of course. And to send your work out to literary magazines, etc. – if you want to have a book published, it's a good idea to have a bit of track record.

5. What are you doing on National Poetry Day this year?
In the morning I'm going to be MCing Seraph Press & Friends at Vic Books on Victoria University's Kelburn campus, which features Seraph Press poets and poets from the university. Before that I hope there will be coffee. And after that I'm intending to go to some of the many other
Poetry Day events in Wellington – there's some especially interesting things happening this year, including one in my local Aro hall, where people are going to talk about poems they like and why they like them.

Find a National Poetry Day event near you in the 2016 calendar of events.

Poems in Your Pocket is a poetry booklet you download online, print, fold, and pocket to share for National Poetry Day. A single page becomes a miniature poetry book featuring four NZ poets.