(Full disclosure – Enamel editor Emma Barnes is a close friend and I am IN this journal! This either makes me completely unreliable, or the perfect person to write about it. It depends on your perspective.)
Enamel literary journal has come to an end, The End, which is a great shame as it is a well-edited and beautifully produced journal. It has, however, gone out on a high note, as the writing in this issue is stimulating, surprising and generally to be relished.
Joan Fleming is my current New Zealand writing crush and both of her pieces in here are wonderful. Her short story ‘Dinner Party’ (and I don’t say this lightly) is perfect to me, every word earns its place, the restraint in the writing has a delicious tension – it feels like the spare style is holding back riotous emotion and inner-complexity. It reminded me of Katherine Mansfield at her best, or Ali Smith or the short stories of Anne Enright. She describes feeling lonely and listless like this: ”She is not getting any work done. She just keeps changing her clothes and washing the dishes. She must be walking kilometres inside the house every day. Also, it has been raining.’ I also liked this description of a baby the protaganist is holding: ‘Oscar has baby fat even on the soles of his feet. Not leaned yet, or leathered with the exhaustible tasks of the upright.’
I don’t know Joan, and yet I know Joan – because she is friends with my friends and also Joan and I are facebook friends, and we, Joan and I, taught on the same paper at Massey this year, but it was an online course so we never met. So we are colleagues and ‘friends’ who have never met, and that is a typical vignette of the writing life in New Zealand, isn’t it? (Or maybe just life in New Zealand.)
Lots of my friends are in this journal, so I probably shouldn’t write about liking their writing, even though you don’t know who my friends are, but I do and I try to have a modicum of integrity, even though I can’t really because I am reviewing a journal edited and published by my close friend, Emma who chose three of my poems to go in the journal. Did she choose them because we are friends or because she liked the writing? No one will ever know except Emma, but I choose to believe the latter, because Emma is also a woman of great integrity and to believe the latter is better for my self-esteem.
(At this point, those of you who are feeling a bit jaded and pissed off with the writing world and think it is a load of nepotism and arse-kissing and scenesters and in-crowds might be getting a bit annoyed. Fair enough. To some extent it is, but you still have to believe in your own work and continue to work on your writing like it isn’t.)
I loved the surprising and confounding images in Marisa Capetta’s two poems: ‘my husband has / the hands of an apple picker / too fragile for bread’ and ‘my wife’s taste and artistry are not easily / acquired by reading her shoulders back or thighs’. These are two beautiful, precise and unusual love poems.
I loved the lilting energy of Barnaby Dromgool’s ‘JB’, obviously a poem demanding to be read aloud, which I obliged it (here’s an excerpt):
‘john sat in bed when the sea stopped starving / sad to the mad moon, sad to the rider / grey in the song of the morning station / shone with the sure of a tail gone wagging / nobody waited when john gave notice.’
I don’t know how to describe Orchid Tierney’s poems, except to say they are form-pushing, delightful and literally need to be seen to be believed.
‘Enamel 3: The End’ is a beautiful microcosm of current New Zealand writing and even better it is
Just click on the ‘free’ link above to go to Emma’s post where she announces she is giving away this issue, including postage! for free and how you can get one. All you have to do is send her an email.
This is writing that has a lot to offer the reader and also writing which made me want to write. Thanks, Emma, for three great issues of Enamel, for your generosity in offering the final issue for FREE and for your canny editing eye.
Writers featured in this issue of Enamel are:
Johanna Aitchison, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhran, Marisa Cappetta, Megan Clayton, Jennifer Compton, Morgan Davie, Barnaby Dromgool, Heather Elder, Joan Fleming, Janis Freegard, Helen Heath, Angeline King, Helen Lehndorf, Maria McMillan, Harvey Molloy, Kevin O’Donnell, Mark Pirie, Vaughan Rapatahana, Meliors Simms, Ian C Smith, Orchid Tierney
and nine of those people are my friends.