Press Release – Makaro Press
HOOPLA poets blitz Bestsellers List
by Mary McCallum, publisher, Mākaro Press
It’s provocative poetry in vivid packages, our one-year-old HOOPLA series with echoes of the Faber series in design, released in sets of three every April with a late-career, mid-career and first-time published poet from around the country.
HOOPLA 2015 is the second set in the series, and the lineup is: Jennifer Compton’s Mr Clean & The Junkie, Bryan Walpert’s Native bird and Carolyn McCurdie’s Bones in the Octagon. Last year we had one big wingding event at the Embassy Theatre to launch all three books, this year we had a roadshow: three launches in the poets’ three hometowns.
There was Wellington for capital-raised Compton (who lives in Melbourne now and has won prizes in both countries including the Kathleen Grattan), Palmerston North for Walpert (who immigrated from the US ten years ago and has won writing prizes in the US and NZ) and Dunedin for McCurdie (who has been part of the southern poetry scene for a long time, also a prize-winner with a following, but this is her first collection.)
All three poets read in all three towns, booksellers stocked up on the books and displayed them with flair, librarians offered launch spaces and poured wine – except in Wellington where The Fringe bar did the job, poets were on posters all over city walls and bookshops … and people came: fellow poets, poetry lovers, family, colleagues, community, librarians, booksellers – and bought the books. Not just in ones and twos, but a number bought the set of three. One woman bought three sets.
One of the ideas behind HOOPLA is that the poets work to support each other at readings and launches and at the bookshops – and that thereby some sort of new energy is created by the three coming together. And as the publisher I can say this most definitely happens. The first gig was quiet but affirming, and then the relationship grew. The poems started to sound like they were in a kind of conversation, and then the poets started loudly cheering each other on. They begin to act like a whanau, one that includes last year’s HOOPLA: Michael Harlow with Heart absolutely I can, Helen Rickerby with Cinema and Stefanie Lash with Bird murder.
As Bryan Walpert emailed me, ‘Launching with three is so much more fun than doing it on your own. That’s the way to go.’
All three HOOPLA 2015 poets were ecstatic when Bryan’s Native bird entered last week’s Nielsen Weekly Bestsellers List of New Zealand Fiction at number 9. There was much whooping and disbelief. Delight, too, that the list in question was fiction, and that Bryan’s poems were in good company with Vincent O’Sullivan’s selected poems at number one. Two poetry books and all those novels …
Then this week the news came through: Bryan’s book had moved up to number 6 on the the fiction Bestsellers List, Jennifer’s had entered the list at number 7, and – sheer gob-smacked astonishment – debut poet Carolyn McCurdie was … number one! Bryan alerted us all with a text. Carolyn declared herself incoherent with disbelief, the other two poets texted and Facebooked their congratulations and awe at all three HOOPLAs making the list. They were joined by a number of well-wishers from the poetry community.
There was a sense of everyone being deeply thrilled for HOOPLA, but it was more than that. With Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the empty page also in the fiction line-up, it meant nearly half the Nielsen Fiction Bestsellers List was poetry. The consensus seems to be that above all else, this delightful news is a win for poetry in this country.
Poetry as a bestseller, mused Jennifer Compton online, back home in Melbourne, who would have thought?