Maria Zajkowski launches long awaited book
The poet Peter Boyle said of Maria Zajkowski's writing – ‘[It] reads like something no one has ever said before,’ and we agree. We chatted with Zajkowski about the release of The Ascendant which is her first full-length book of poetry.
How does it feel now that The Ascendant is out?
Having The Ascendant published is, so far, the biggest relief of my life. Getting published probably means different things to different people. To me it's always been a step in a process that was always going to involve things beyond my control. I have been living with its prominence in my life, but now I can share with others so much more easily what The Ascendant is through the physical existence of the book. It's a real privilege to be able to do this.
How many poems are in the collection?
Fifty-three. It's a slim volume at best. I'm not one for faffing.
How long have you been working on this book?
This book has been one long pregnancy followed by one long labour. I started writing poems for The Ascendant in 2009. I wrote them over a couple of years, as well as a whole lot of other stuff that didn't end up in the book. There has been minor tweaking towards the end of the draft process but it's pretty much been as it is since last year.
Are there any specific themes in this collection of poetry?
Despite how it may seem if you read it, this book is about hope. It might be centred around the act of death but it's about all of life, and probably what you really experience in life when you are left living when someone else has died. It's not easy to describe as it's so common and we ignore common things very day. Yet we get shocked by death as if it's not really there. When it is there you know you really are alive.
Do you think there has been a resurgence of interest in poetry or is it chugging along as usual?
I don't really know if there has been a resurgence in poetry except to say that it's my impression that over the last 10 years or so there may have been some consolidation of the previous decade. But I'm not an expert. I go to my job. I write. I don't go to a lot of poetry events. I get rejected a lot by literary magazines and the whole thing goes around in circles again. That would probably be fairly typical of a lot of poets. I think poetry opens a door to a lot of people and I think there are different types of poetry. It could be that instead of saying you like poetry, you need to say which type. But I still think there is one kind of poetry which is the kind you like.
Who would you note as some of you favourite poets and writers?
My favourite writers would be, in no particular order, Inger Christensen, Anne Sexton, Peter Boyle, Vicente Huidobro, MTC Cronin, Sam Shepard, Anne Carson, Fernando Pessoa, Vasko Popa, Jack Gilbert, Nathan Shepherson and Shuntaro Tanikawa. Of course there's more.
The cover is so beautiful – how did that come about?
The cover is a painting by a good friend of mine, Liz Racz. She is based in France now but this particular piece is from a series she did while still in Melbourne. I've got a few of them rolled up in my garage. They're too large to put on the wall. One of her pieces also graces the cover of the Species Counterpoint EP by Sailor Days, which is a reworking of my poem with that title into song by Biddy Connor. Biddy and I are currently working together on some new songs for the Spiritous program at the Abbotsford Convent for a concert in June.
You have also been working with Roomful of Teeth – can you tell us a little about that?
After working with Biddy Connor I sent the manuscript for The Ascendant to my friend Wally Gunn who is doing composition at Princeton. So far he has taken three poems and made these incredible and unique voice pieces that appear on the newly released album by Roomful of Teeth. To be honest I'd never heard of them before, but it's a good fit, and an excellent relationship exists between myself, Wally Gunn and Roomful of Teeth. It's been nothing but an unexpected and amazing collaboration. Everyone is very respectful of each other’s input. Given that Roomful of Teeth won a Grammy last year for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance and they have Pulitzer Prize Winner Caroline Shaw in the group means they have great exposure. They also have a great following from their amazing live performances where The Ascendant is now sold alongside their new CD. These poems have been given a life beyond what they are at their core. It's a pretty special collaboration.
The Ascendant Book Launch, The Provincial 299 Brunswick St, Fitzroy Melbourne, Sunday May 3, 2pm
To read more about Maria and her poerty head to mariazajkowski.com