Ko Whitireia te maunga
Ko Porirua te moana
Ko Ngāti Toa Rangatira te iwi
Ko Whitireia te Kura Matatini
Nau mai, haere mai
e te hunga pānui, e!
One of the best parts of being 4th Floor’s editor is the moment when I get to read the whole thing, from (digital) cover to cover, for the first time. For me this happens when I’m doing the first proofread. It’s been a while, by this stage, since I first saw the writings and chose them for the edition, and they come alive in different ways once they’re formatted onscreen. For me, they also gain new energy from being with each other. As I read the journal through, each piece now in the company of the others, I find myself not only enjoying the individual texts all over again, but also savouring the meta-conversation I imagine they’re having with each other.
Sometimes it’s a thematic, subject matter connection. Sometimes it’s just a tone of voice or linguistic personality that pieces seem to share. Sometimes it’s the dissonance, the great difference between them, that feels so satisfying when I read them one after the other.
The simple but vivid imagery of Bronwyn Bryant’s High Tide at Kuaotunu is a beautiful contemplation in itself; but when I read it alongside Samiha Radcliffe’s Our sister’s advice on unrequited love, I can’t help but see the characters from ‘advice’ walking meditatively along the shores of that bay. It somehow becomes possible that the resting river at Kuaotunu is the ‘place’ with the hibiscus behind its ear. I read Aaron Carter’s Finding your way in the dark very differently when I couple it with Kate Camp’s How fine it is to be surround by wood. Both seem to me to speak of an absence, a longing for something greatly missed, but the voice, tone and language of each are completely different. The texture of the wood presents itself more, somehow, when I imagine it being experienced in the dark. Aaron’s idea of finding one’s way into the creative act in the dark seems somehow less and more daunting with Kate’s line ‘the warm, close coffin of the present’ ringing through it.
Some 4th Floor 2012 writers are represented by more than one work, and some of these speak more or less deliberately to each other. Fay Cameron’s The First Family Photograph is a layered vignette of family tensions, a portrait of what is unsaid. In her second piece, Another Family Photo, she invites us forward in time to witness a moment in the same family, almost a generation later. Natasha Dennerstein’s two poems can be read as giving voice to first one, then the other personality in an unforgettable couple. Tina Regtien’s three poems form one, contained sequence from a much larger 50-poem collection.
Other writings in this year’s journal are, as it happens, particularly close in subject matter, so the temptation to pair feels strong. There’s pleasing echoes, for example, between Hannah Schenker’s A little cuckoo and The Plan by Penny M Geddis. But there’s also a satisfying tension and sadness in reading either of them close to Sandi Sartorelli’s untitled poem or Rachel Tobin’s the night is steel blue.
It’s also been interesting for me to allow the prose and poetry to bounce around with each other in this way. I’ve loved reading Lynn Jenner’s thoughtful and understated extract in the company of Lynn Davidson’s beautifully transcendent poem A Hillside of Houses Leaves. Work from emerging student writers speaks to pieces from more established tutor/mentor writers: try reading Sue Jamieson’s TUBABABY with Mary-Jane Duffy’s Stranger things. There are some moments, too, when two pieces set in completely different parts of the world echo each other’s details – Nicola Easthope’s Working the Tang, Birsay and Felicity Yates’ poem Between Tzidrá and Hídera (Lesvós), for example. I also loved the echo of exasperation between Mary Creswell’s Don’t mention the war and Robert Stratford’s The Terrace.
So yes – I look forward to 4th Floor each year not just for the strength of its individual writings, but for all its possible permutations and combinations. None of this, however, would be possible without the Whitireia publishing students. This year, the journal has been copy-edited, content-managed and published by Nina McCullagh, Blaze Paul, Imogen Coxhead and Alya Egoz. Many thanks to them for their hard work, and to Rachel Lawson, Pip Byrne, Mary-Jane Duffy, Tamati Kaa and all the creative writing programme tutors, mentors and students, past and present, for their ongoing support.
Please feel free to browse. Perhaps you’d like to explore a few of the pairings I’ve suggested here. Perhaps you’d like to sample one author at a time. Or maybe, as well as feasting on this year’s offerings, you’d like to remind yourself of your favourite moments from previous editions of 4th Floor. Whichever approach you choose, we are thrilled to have you here. And don’t forget, you can now download our ebook anthology 4th Floor Since ’05 in mobi, epub and pdf formats here.
Editor, 4th Floor 2012