imag­in­ing par­adise: new and se­lected po­ems

Barry Gif­ford Seven Sto­ries Press

NZ Today - - ON BOOKS -

and for his col­lab­o­ra­tion with David Lynch for the fright­en­ing/per­fect/bonkers Lost High­way. It's no sur­prise when you take in Gif­ford's writ­ing for cin­ema that poetry is close to his heart. In fact his first pub­lished poetry – his de­but col­lec­tion – ap­peared a half-decade be­fore any sto­ries and nov­els.

So Imag­in­ing Par­adise: New and Se­lected Po­ems fea­tures Gif­ford's per­sonal high­lights from across the nine pre­vi­ous vol­umes of poetry he's pub­lished. And a gen­er­ous smat­ter­ing of new works.

Gif­ford writes con­vinc­ingly across many themes – jazz, travel, ro­mance, lost love and so seam­less is his switch from re­al­ism to sur­re­al­ism that he's all at once Ernest Hem­ing­way and Wil­liam Car­los Wil­liams, Bukowski and Au­gust Klein­zahler. Gif­ford's own voice shines through of course, it's clear, un­mis­tak­able but he's able to trace around the foot­steps of oth­ers, a not-quite Beat writer, a not-quite travel writer, a di­arist of sorts; both poet (in the tech­ni­cal sense) and sto­ry­teller (in the purest way).

As a ca­reer sum­mary of the poetry that Gif­ford has of­fered in and around his prose – some of th­ese works seem like footnotes, ad­den­dums to the “main” writ­ing, oth­ers stand on their own, some pos­si­bly the trig­ger for a longer prose piece to fol­low – this is a must-have col­lec­tion. Gif­ford's steady eye, wry hu­mour, bold sin­cer­ity and just-right turn of phrase will have you turn­ing the pages. His time-cap­sule ap­proach, the spot-on ob­ser­va­tions, the cat­a­logu­ing of life as it hap­pens, as it changes, as we move through it, will have you re­turn­ing to turn the pages again and again.

Post­script: I was lucky enough to be in San Fran­cisco last year to at­tend the al­most ad-hoc launch of this book. We were go­ing to see Willy Vlautin read some sto­ries and sing some songs. He was on the bill as open­ing act/dou­blebill with Gif­ford. An amaz­ing evening at City Lights – an amaz­ing/iconic book store. They shared the stage for songs, both read sto­ries and Gif­ford of­fered a se­lec­tion of the po­ems from this book. It was one of my favourite ex­pe­ri­ences from my Amer­i­can trip last year. A real treat.

Si­mon Sweet­man Barry Gif­ford has been cat­a­logu­ing out­side move­ments and cre­at­ing en­dur­ing char­ac­ters to tell un­der­ground tales for some 40+ years now, across 40+ ti­tles; many know him first and fore­most for his nov­els and sto­ries – or cer­tainly for the film ver­sions ( Wild at Heart, Perdita Du­rango)

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