Ambient Terror reviewed in New Zealand Poetry Yearbook 2018

poetry2018_cvr
The writer Laura Solomon has written a very generous review of Ambient Terror for the just released Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018.

Published by Massey University Press and edited by Jack Ross, the revamped magazine also features a wide range of work from New Zealand poets including a substantial feature on the work of Alastair Paterson, and a very wide range of established and less known poets, along with reviews and essays.

I’ve reproduced the review in full below (as you don’t get your tyres pumped up like this everyday), but I urge readers to purchase a copy of the Yearbook.

Ambient Terror is an excellent collection from the talented Victor Billot. He has his finger right on the zeitgeist, and accurately portrays the spirit of our times for New Zealanders. As the title would suggest, a feeling of unease pervades the poems, and they paint a realistic, if sometimes depressing, picture of life in twenty-first-century New Zealand.

 There are some great comic moments, such as when the Prince of Darkness attends a Work and Income interview, although this poem also carries a serious message. Some poems are quietly moving, such as when Billot writes about a child who may be his son in ‘A Boy’, and the haunting final poem ‘Song of the Sea’ where the narrator intones:

 The wind is blowing all night long
And from its thread it sews a song
You once were here, but now you have gone
The wind is blowing all night long.

 The smart and enjoyable ‘FVEY’ is about the invasion of privacy in a digital age, and ends with the lines ‘Everything about you analysed, scrutinised and known.’

But just for now we’ll let you keep your unspoken thoughts your own.

 A sense of fighting off the darkness and of the poet exploring various hells comes through in these poems. ‘New Seasons of the Blue Fields’ contains the line ‘sorrow flows through the streets like a river’, and in ‘Economics’ he ‘drives onwards, down the tributaries and channels of the Underworld.’

Familiar scenes from New Zealand life are depicted in poems such as ‘Westport Race Day’, where people place bets on horses named Southern Sky, Our Lad and No Regrets, or ‘Port Chalmers’, where the channel lights ‘wink the way home in a cheery salute of green and red’.

 Teenage life is portrayed, too, in poems such as ‘Quantum Decoherence at a Bailter Space Gig’, where the narrator has his ‘neural networks reformatted’ and feels his life changed by the gig. In ‘Teenage Pissup on the Kaikoura Coast’ the poet heads north for New Year’s Eve fuelled by screwdrivers and Camel cigarettes, parties through the night, and in the morning drives into the rising sun in search of breakfast, which is found at the Kekerengu tearooms.

‘Trial By Fire’ is an eerie number which could be about the poet’s art or maybe just about getting through life in one piece. Perhaps the narrator is being ironic when he says ‘It is your choice, your decision’. He is put to trial by various subjects: water, disorder, ice, knife, blood, kisses, mirror, flood, number, winter and glimmer of hope. It seems these trials will go on forever as the poem ends with the line ‘trial from now until the end of the road’.

Victor Billot is a very gifted poet who deserves to be widely read; his audience his reward for depicting New Zealand life so well and having the courage to explore the infernal realms.

Ambient Terror  – a forthcoming review from Takahē

Takahē magazine and Shelley Chappell have kindly given permission for this review by Shelley to appear in advance of publication in the forthcoming issue 92 of Takahē.

Victor Billot is a Dunedin writer of poetry and short stories, also known for his work as a parliamentary candidate. A publicist for Otago University Press, he also sidelines as a vocalist for post punk band, Alpha Plan. Ambient Terror is his third collection of poetry, launched at the Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival in May 2017.Continue reading “Ambient Terror  – a forthcoming review from Takahē”

Dunedin hosting four days of creative collisions / combinations / confabulations

I’m looking forward to the Creative Cities Southern Hui on from 28 November – 2 December. Every day features some fantastic events and even better it’s free to attend (registration required.)

Also I get to introduce the featured guests for Creative Connections on Thursday 30 November.

hui

Ambient Terror on Landfall Review Online

An insightful and generous review of Ambient Terror by Piet Nieuwland, alongside reviews of the great Peter Olds and Auckland poet Shane Hollands. Nice to be in such company.

“[A] rolling, blustering word-river of nanobytes, phrase chunks, alliterations and acrobatic satirical loops, held together by number-eight wire rhyme – great fun . . . 
My favourite poems in this collection have a distinctive urgency and rhythm and frequently use strong rhyme that drives them along. It is easy to imagine Billot on stage, performing them with energy and enthusiasm, whether it’s ‘Ghost beat’, ‘FVEY’ or ‘The oversharing economy’. The more time I spend with them, the more they infiltrate . . .” 

The Finishing Time

I enjoyed writing a poem for the Given Words competition as part of National Poetry Day. Five words were supplied which you had to include in your poem. The winner was a fellow Dunedinite Elizabeth Brooke–Carr who wrote a very good entry (which is now translated into Spanish) and who also had a poem in the recent Manifesto anthology.

However I was pleased to get a small mention in the Judge’s notes too for my entry. Here it is:

The Finishing Time

In life’s corner, you’re painted in.
You wait upon the finishing.
The burden of care is loosened,
the kaitiakitanga of your days,
of family, home, and work,
slips from you, slack and frayed.
In the finishing of things
each slim scrap of life claimed
exhilarates those who remain,
those who stay to walk in light
and struggle in their measure.
The lonely stuff of used up days
assembled in static display,
crumbs of biscuitchip grow soft
on the margins of an unswept floor.
Here in these dim latitudes,
time is a guttering match,
there are no more rooms left,
when the forgetting has begun,
and you await the finishing
to come.

The 2035 New Zealand Poet Laureate writes on the occasion of the election of the Tenth Term of the National Government

Let’s make sure this remains a morbid fantasy not a fact. Vote on 23 September. – VB

Fellow citizens,
we celebrate today The Surplus.
From all levels of the Survival Dome,
we gather in solemn appreciation
in a National Minibreak of Gratitude.
Could all digital devices
and personal teleportation equipment
be turned to apocalypse mode.
Decision making has been handed over
to an AI called Craigsy
who freelances as a virtual panelist
on a gladiatorial sports chat show.
Today his message to the nation
will be delivered by a cloned avatar
of Paula Bennett via hologram
from the inspiring venue
of the Sky City casino, rising above
Wellesley Lagoon as a symbol
of our freedom of choice.
Maintenance staff imported
on casual short term contracts
from the refugee fleets of the Pacific
are on standby in case of extreme weather.
A special shoutout to our peeps in the
Autonomous Economic Zone of Lactopia
(formerly known as the South Island,
and now under the joint administration
of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army
and Paypal.)
We celebrate how the perfection
of reverse ageing therapy
means the eternal rule of baby boomers
who have reclaimed their golden youth
in the legendary fountain of capital gains.
We celebrate the wonders
of fiscal stability and incremental progress,
of genetically enhanced cows expressing
coconut milk for the export market,
of beggars on Queen Street
collecting likes on social media,
of a twelve lane gigahighway
terminating on the cliffs 
of Cape Reinga.
The last Kiwi floats sedated
in a see through vat of nutrient soup
in the foyer of Te Papa,
the tourist dollar has become
the Revelations renminbi
and style conscious survivalists
tote Prada bags through the
priority billionaire queue at
Tauranga International Hoverport.
We take comfort that if our last stand
here on Planet Earth is in vain,
the future of humanity is secured
above us in the orbiting space cruiser Sir Max Key
with its precious cargo of retired Cabinet Ministers.

Outside, in the dead lands,
those who have made poor choices
reflect on their lack of aspiration
and shelter from the scorching sand storms
of our final years.

Eastern Line to Manukau

Thanks to Jade at Books on the Bus NZ. Great idea for #NZpoetryday

%d bloggers like this: