Installed poetry gets world debut

LEE MATTHEWS
Last updated 11:59 03/04/2012
Joy Green
ROBERT KITCHIN/Fairfax NZ

TELL ME, DOCTOR: Five people; four health problems; 13 poems unpacking people's troubles are presented to the listeners in Joy Green's premiere of installed poetry, Anatomy, at Square Edge's FX2 Cinema.

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Palmerston North poet Joy Green is making off-page poetry history at Square Edge.

Anatomy, her installed poetry is believed to be the first of its type in New Zealand.

Certainly, it's the most elaborate setting of its type that she knows about, designed to present poetry off-page, as a performance that's immediately accessible to people.

The setting has the viewer/listener step into a medical centre, and first stop is the harried receptionist.

There's the Little Corpus Cafe, complete with checked tablecloths and a handwritten menu – today's specials are Celery and Fish Soup, Pasta Milanese and Thai Fish Curry – where the worried can linger over lattes. There's the doctor's waiting room, with dog-eared old Listeners on the table. And, on the dais, focus of the whole visit, is the doctor's office, scene of good and painful news, with a jacket slung over the chair back and a glass of tongue depressors on the desk.

Green, who lectures creative writing at Massey University, put the installation together for her master's degree. The viewer will hear 13 poems from four people, all of which have been read by local actors Mark Kilsby, Peri Chapelle, Div Collins, Jackie McKenzie and Richard Mays. The poems unpack what's happening for each character; a medical or life problem to be shared or stewed over.

The poems are presented through computer screens set on mannequins' bodies.

"Off-page poetry isn't presented as print in a book. It's got cousins in slam and performance poetry ... the ideas have to be accessible quickly. Readers [of printed poetry] can sit and absorb and re-read; you can't do that here.

"This is people talking about their problems, to themselves, to friends, to strangers. It's a conversation with the audience."

The installation has taken Green two years to think through, write and design. She's considering touring it in future, because it's different to anything else she's seen before in New Zealand.

Green began lecturing at Massey when creative writing courses began in 2001. She writes fiction and theatre as well as poetry, and produces Massey University's Summer Shakespeare productions each year.

Anatomy, Square Edge FX2 Cinema, April 2 to 15, 10am to 4pm (closed over Easter Weekend).

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- Manawatu Standard

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