Saturday, May 21, 2011

NZ Cricket Museum's touch-screen technology

It was great to see in the latest news from the NZ Cricket Museum, a mention of new touch-screen technology that will make use of New Zealand cricket poetry:

Touch-screen technology coming soon

The museum is planning to develop a new touch-screen interactive for the 2011/12 year featuring cricket poetry, music, radio/television commentaries etc. Watch this space, or access forthcoming museum newsletters, for more information as the project unfolds in the future, commencing in July 2011.

I look forward to hearing more about this project. 

Martin Crowe’s cricket comeback

The cricket news story of the week was the tweeted intention of cricket great Martin Crowe to return to First Class cricket at age 48.
I really hope Martin can pull it off. His forced retirement in 1995 because of a dicky knee was a big blow to New Zealand cricket. I’m sure he would’ve become the first New Zealand batsman to post 20 Test centuries - the mark that Test batsmen often aim for.
As it stands, he has an average of 56 in First Class cricket. It’d be great to see him don the pads for Auckland to reach his 250th game. Let’s hope his body stands up to the fitness levels required for making the mark.
It made me think of another cricketing comeback. On the 1964/65 tour of India and Pakistan, New Zealand legend Bert Sutcliffe came out of retirement at age 41. He went on to score 151 not out against India at Eden Gardens and averaged 45.66 for the four match series. That was the innings where Sutcliffe featured in a big partnership with a young Bruce Taylor who went on to score a Test century himself (105).
Sutcliffe didn’t fare so well on the Pakistan leg (averaging 15.25 and battling illness) and on the ’65 tour of England he was hit on the head by Freddie Trueman and retired hurt in his last Test appearance after making 53 in the first innings. The unbeaten 151 (355 minutes at the crease) in hot subcontinent conditions will mark as one of his best Test innings.
I wish Martin well for his intended comeback. Anyone wishing to know more about Sutcliffe’s comeback should read Richard Boock’s excellent biography, The Last Everyday Hero: The Bert Sutcliffe Story.

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An interview with cricket novelist Michael O’Leary

I’ve known Michael O’Leary since 2000. Michael (b. 1950), also known as the Earl of Seacliff, is a well-known Aotearoa/New Zealand writer and publisher with an extensive bibliography and a wide range of publications and work experience. Over the past decade we’ve collaborated on a range of literary projects, from co-hosting the rock inspired Winter Readings in Wellington (2003-2008) to co-organising the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa, with Niel Wright. As well, we have published each other’s work at times and co-authored a collection, Sounds of Sonnets (HeadworX, 2006). Michael is one of my closest friends.
This year Michael republished two of his novels as e-books, including his 1987 cricket novel Out of It, and I asked to do an interview about it. Six of Michael’s cricket poetry satires from Out of It appear in A Tingling Catch. (Out of It is also listed in my list of favourite cricket books down the side of this blog). Out of It features a fictitious One-Day match between New Zealand and an Out of It XI set in the 1980s. It’s not just the subject of cricket that interests me, it’s Michael’s unusual dada technique, surrealism and satirical humour that makes the book a great read in a literary sense. I thoroughly recommend it.
Literature aside, one of our common discussions is always cricket. I phone Michael up and he mentions he’s watching cricket. Usually, if I’m lucky, Michael relays the details of the wickets as they happen…that’s what friends are for, especially in World Cup year!

Mark: When did you first get interested in cricket? Did you play cricket as well? I remember you saying once you had an Earl’s Eleven in Seacliff, Dunedin?

Michael: I remember watching cricket on TV after school in the 1960s. I didn't know anything about the game but I found a certain fascination with it. I did play cricket after primary school where we used to play a lot as kids for fun. At secondary school, it all became a bit too serious, and I had by then developed other interests, such as the Beatles and music generally. The Earl's Eleven was a social team of either cricket or soccer, depending on what was going on, and while both games consist of eleven players the Earl's Eleven was only such in name, sometimes manifesting itself with anything from 4 to 20 a side, depending on who turned up. This happened in the 1970s in Seacliff and in the 1980s in Auckland. Also, at that time several of us would play cricket up on Mount Albert in Auckland with a stone wall acting as the slip cordon.  

Mark: Your 1987 cricket novel Out of It has just been re-released as a Kindle e-book. It features a fictitious match between New Zealand and an Out of It Eleven. When did you first begin writing your cricket novel, and why did you choose the 1980s New Zealand team for inspiration?

Michael: Out of It began life as a Test match and halfway through I changed it into a one-day game because I had my own 'out of it' lifestyle to contend with! I began it in 1986 and wrote it in a couple of months. The 1980s New Zealand cricket team were not so much an 'inspiration' as a fact, that is they were the team when I was writing the novel. In some respects it was a reply to my 1984 novel Straight. I liked the idea of following Straight with Out of It linguistically and conceptually. The first novel was about a group of people living a wild, ‘out of it’ lifestyle, whose characters at the end settle down in a domestic, family life. Out of It on the other hand considers the life of a suburban family man who ends up becoming what the title suggests.

Mark: The book seems to have attained a cult status in New Zealand literature mainly for its surrealist and Modernist techniques, and its Out of It Eleven, featuring rocks stars (Morrison/Hendrix/Joplin), Bob Marley, famous writers and artists (Joyce/Wilde/Baxter) and the Māori chief Te Rauparaha. I understand there was once an Artists XI playing club cricket in Auckland, which included Barry Lett, David Mealing [now curator of the New Zealand Cricket Museum] and David Mitchell among others. Were they an influence on your Out of It Eleven? How did you go about choosing the Out of It Eleven?

Michael: I had no knowledge of the Auckland Artists Eleven until you asked me this question. I did know Barry Lett in the 1970s and David Mitchell in the 1980s, but only as artists and poets, so they had no influence on the Out of It Eleven. While I had no knowledge of modernist and post-modernist techniques in literature at the time, however, I was profoundly influenced by dada and surrealism. I also wanted to write a mixture of absurdist and humourous novels, something I have always found lacking in New Zealand literature. How does anyone choose an Out of It Eleven? Are they in form with the bat and/or the ball, do they excel in the field? 

Mark: Te Rauparaha top scores as the Out of It captain with a hard-hitting 80. As an Irish/Māori writer, why did you choose Te Rauparaha to be the hero of the Out of It Eleven?

Michael: The way I write I do not know what is going to happen. 'Out of It' is a typical one-dayer, unpredictable from start to finish. For example, I had no idea that Te Rauparaha would hit six sixes off a Richard Hadlee over, but he did! I am a writer who works through inspiration, so when I start a story or poem they take on a life of their own. I don't think God would have made me if he knew how I would turn out, but He did, and here I am. As an Irish/Māori writer, I don't know. There is a discussion between a couple of the radio commentators in the novel, one of whom favours Titokowaru as captain: perhaps he wasn't Out of It enough! 

Mark: Another interesting feature is the inclusion of anonymous montages made by Gregory O’Brien? How did you get Greg involved in the project, and how were the images constructed?

Michael: Greg and I have done a lot of collaborative work over the years. The fact that he had done the illustrations for Straight lead to me asking if he wanted to illustrate Out of It also, and the cover was done by another of our friends, poet Iain Sharp. You would have to ask Greg how they were constructed as he did them. I assume they were done as collages - images from cut-up magazines and books, and glued together after being assembled. Remember, this was all done before computer graphics etc. 

Mark: Out of It was self-published by your publishing company ESAW in 1987. How was the original edition received. Did you get much interest from the cricket fraternity and the general public as opposed to a literary audience?

Michael: Self-publishing equates to a kind of literary damnation in this country, yet it is the way most writers begin their careers. From R A K Mason to Denis Glover to Bill Manhire [Amphedesma Press in London] and more recently the literary bloggers and internet self-publishers, New Zealand writers have more often than not either begun as or continued to be self-publishers. This is discussed in my MA thesis on alternative small presses in NZ (2001 & 2008), the irony being that there is often no 'alternative'. As for interest from the cricket fraternity and the general public as opposed to a literary audience, the score is nil/all (and I mean all). I am lucky that there are enough people who enjoy and appreciate my work and Out of It got good reviews at a time when New Zealand books were reviewed by people like Michael Gifkins [in the New Zealand Listener] because he found them interesting.

Mark: Finally, the e-book format is new way of publishing books in New Zealand. How did you get Out of It republished as an e-book, and what are your hopes for the new technology. Do you think e-books will help New Zealand writers export their work overseas more readily?

Michael: Like most things in my life this appeared from the sky. As I once wrote: ‘A beard is growing on my face more out of neglect / Than by design, or for effect'.
  I tend to work intuitively on most things so I couldn't say how, why, or where I came across the e-book idea. I contacted Jason Darwin from MeBooks and had a meeting with him at Wellington Railway Station (my city office) - and, after a time of wonder, an e-book was born. My hope for the new technology is the same for the old technology, that it becomes a tool by which I can get my work published and out to as many people as possible. I think there is a lot of scope for New Zealand writers to get their work read overseas with the e-technology but with the proviso that there are billions of people trying to do the same thing - at least in New Zealand there are only 4 million.

OUT OF IT - XI (1987) by Michael O'Leary

1) Jimi Hendrix
2) Monk Lewis
3) Te Rauparaha (C)
4) Oscar Wilde
5) Jim Morrison
6) Alfred Jarry
7) Janice Joplin
8) Bob Marley (V.C.)
9) Herman Goering
10) Lord Byron
11) James Joyce

12th man - James K. Baxter

Interview © Mark Pirie 2011

Out of It by Michael O'Leary
(ESAW e-book, 2011)
Thanks Michael. Michael’s novel can be bought from Amazon as a Kindle ebook.

See also my related blog post ‘Michael O’Leary’s cricket novel to be republished’.

Mark Pirie and Michael O'Leary at Poetrywall:
Winter Readings, City Gallery, Wellington, 2007

John Barr’s 1927 Australian cricket vignette

Every now and again, you come across a rare gem at a community book fair. At the Heretaunga Book Fair last weekend, I found a book by John Barr. It had no book cover; was an old book, rebound with just a blank paper cover.
I picked it up, was curious, people don’t rebind old books unless they’re worth keeping. Dated 1927, the book, Men and Other Sins, is a miscellany of John Barr’s poems, prose, satires and epigrams lifted from Aussie magazine, c1924-27.
I bought it for a dollar, and afterwards, I asked a friend if he knew about this author. He wasn’t sure, but in turn asked another friend, a book collector about it. Was the author a New Zealand writer? The collector emailed back the following response:

He is not the early Otago poet John Barr of Craigielee, nor novelist John Barr (Dunedin lawyer) nor John M. Barr, an earlier Australian journalist and writer.
  John Barr trained as a printer then became shipping reporter on the Evening Post [Wellington], then a Special Writer and Parliamentary Correspondent for the New Zealand Times. In 1906 he moved to Australia, joining the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, then was asked by James Edmund to join the Bulletin.
  He later edited the Sunday Times [Sydney] and worked on Aussie magazine and as a freelance journalist. He was one of the earliest writers of an Australian film-script, co-writing 'Australia Calls' with C. A. Jeffries. This, an account of an invasion of Australia by Asiatics, screened in 1913. He was a founder of the Australian Journalists Association and Sydney Press Club.
  Published poems in Free Lance then later short stories and poems in Bulletin plus the humorous stories in Aussie collected in his one book.

It’s an excellent book to find. I’ve given it to the Poetry Archive in Wellington, and we’ll be running some of the poems in the next Poetry Notes newsletter, including this one ‘Blue Peter’:

Kiss me, beloved, and swoon again to me,
For there, on foremast, running free,
Blue Peter flies – and I must go.

The clanging bell that will not be denied
Clamors farewell, and, trembling-eyed,
I see Blue Peter fly, and I must go.

Is love in vain? Does ecstasy of heart
Swell up and die when two must part?
Ask not of me. But this I know –
Blue Peter flies, and I must go.

As well, the book contains a humourus cricket vignette that I’ll share with you here.


Record Cricket Match

The queerest cricket match I ever took a hand in was set down for a ground some distance out of town.
  The brakes carried the teams out, and drew up at the hotel opposite the park. It was a hot day, and somebody suggested a bob-in for a cool drink.
  We “sold a horse”, and the winner bought another round of iced lager. Pipes were lighted and groups gathered in conversation.
  An hour or so later somebody bawled, “What about it?” – meaning the match.
  Nobody else seemed enthusiastic, and our skipper put it up to our opponents’ captain.
  “Mick,” he said, “I’ll toss you for who won the game.”
  We lost.
  Then we climbed happily back into the vehicles and rumbled home in the cool of the evening.

Poem and vignette © John Barr, 1927

(From Men and Other Sins, Sydney, 1927)

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mark Pirie’s ode on cricket and rugby

This year it’s the Rugby World Cup 2011. There’s no bigger game than rugby this year, in New Zealand at least. Here’s an ode I wrote combining cricket and rugby during the Rugby World Cup in 2003. The All Blacks were well beaten in the semis by Australia. I watched it in the Bellevue Hotel with members of the Hutt District Cricket Club and Senior team. New Zealanders will hope there’s no repeat this year. I can still remember my delight (against Eastbourne, Senior 3 level) watching my cover drive racing along the ground to the boundary, in total contrast to the anguish that followed later that night. Playing at Eastbourne can be fun, especially if you like fetching balls hidden by pinecones along the beach.


Ode, in the Bellevue

The rain came finally
driving us from the field
but not before we’d
    been in grave danger

of collapsing on
a mud-rolled pitch that gave
little to the seamers,
   let alone the spinners.

I was happy enough, making
five not out with a square
drive that ran to the fence
  for four. Then,

later, it was time for the
‘big show’: NZ versus Australia
the World Cup semi-final.
   After a few beers

at the clubrooms we sidled
down to the Bellevue
and watched it in the corner,
   a group of us cricketers

with an eye on the TAB,
and an eye on the beer.
By half-time, the eyes and mood
   of the group were changing.

Only an hour before
we’d picked a 20 point win,
a cruise to the final, and
    a showdown with either

England or France. But this
was not to be, as the Wallaby
defence held and repelled
    the All Black attacks.

By the end most had
started to leave,
giving up completely,
   knowing it’d be

another four years to wait
and a new team to build.
The few left, watched on, as eyes
    sank to even lower levels,

like entering an abyss, similar I
thought to Dante’s Inferno. It
was writ on my mind
   as the final whistle blew.

Bellevue Hotel, Lower Hutt, 2003

Poem © Mark Pirie 2007

(From The Search: Poems and Stories, Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop, 2007)