Kevin Ireland OBE has published novels, short stories, memoirs, a book on fishing and another on growing old. Awards include an honorary doctorate, the 2004 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement and the 2006 A.W. Reed Award for his contribution to New Zealand writing. Kevin talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about JUST LIKE THAT.
It's my 27th book of poems, the first of which was published in 1963. It contains 65 poems -- which, I hope, represents good value for money, for readers get more than 5 poems for every $2 spent.
It's in two sections: the first is up-to-the-minute, for it contains 'Poems for pandemics' and the second deals with what most poetry is about -- 'Inscrutabilities, irrelevancies and incongruities'.
What inspired this collection of poems?
I don't trust much in 'inspiration', although I do think it does happen very occasionally. I simply take pleasure in the act of writing -- and, I confess, it's a compulsion
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I enjoy the routine of writing. I like sitting at my desk most days and getting on with the 'work' of writing. It's an intense labour, but it's what I do and I can't imagine not feeling compelled to get on with it. It pays off when I've worked so hard that the poems appear to have been as easy to write as a chance remark
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
The song would have to be from childhood when all the factors that make us into writers begin to happen. The song would therefore have to be from the great Fats Waller, who died in 1943, while I was still at primary school. I suppose the song could well be 'Honeysuckle Rose' or 'Ain't Misbehavin''.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this collection?
The most wonderful thing was finishing, and having Quentin Wilson say: 'I'll take it.'
What do you hope readers will take away from reading the book?
Pleasure, enjoyment, a smile, a feeling of connection.
If you had to choose your favourite poem from the collection, what would it be and why?
There are several favourite poems. The final poem is about a common remark from a conversation, but it also supplied the book's title and I hope it half-suggests a dozen different passing thoughts without mentioning them directly. And there's a love poem on page 23 that was so true to real feelings, plus poems about people and incidents and thoughts that sometimes stopped me in the street and buttonholed me, then walked home with me and sat down beside me at my desk.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I opened a bottle of very good red wine -- but only when I knew it had been accepted.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I've re-read, yet again, Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. It's his masterpiece and one of the truly great novels of all time. It teems with brilliant characters -- and the River Thames is one of them. I hope there's still time enough to read it again, at least one more time.
Quentin Wilson Publishing