INTERVIEWS AND REVIEWS
"This is a profound [...] first collection from Miriam Barr, perfectly formed.
"Bullet Hole Riddle does not flinch, but wades into the growing debate around consent and culpability with its feminist hat firmly on, and its boots ready for kicking.
"Bullet Hole Riddle is a brave, necessary, graceful example of which can result when honesty meets exquisite art.
"Barr transports her reader through an emotional metamorphosis. There is a quiet hero in our midst.
"Miriam Barr’s first collection has placed her firmly in the cream of today’s most exciting publishing poets.
"Anyone who reads this book will find it impossible not to think seriously about gender politics in society [...] From where I’m standing, that can only be a good thing.
"There is [...] a sense that love is both necessary and dangerous; fulfilling and wounding. We need to be part of the loving group, but we render ourselves vulnerable in loving at all.
"A wonderfully lyrical crime story that unravels like "a question mark unwinding"
"Sounding on the page like a performance poet is a special talent. Auckland poet Miriam Barr has this talent in plenty."
FLOCK - Brave, interesting and fresh
Theatreview, Candice Lewis, 27 August 2016
"I'm blown down Gundry Street to the Old People's Association (that's Ass.) for National Poetry Day. FLOCK is the final show, featuring seven spoken word artists from Auckland, directed by Genevieve McClean and “bringing elements of Butoh and theatre together”. [...]
The performance begins with the poets gathered in one corner. They stand with twitching shoulders on a flour-covered stage dressed in black, humming [...]
Butoh is a Japanese form of dance that arose after World War two. It is beautiful and grotesque in equal measure; there is a relationship to the ground and an exploration of the unconscious that informs every move [...]
Favourite Poetry Reads of 2014
The Poetry Shelf, 5 December 2014
Bullet Hole Riddle earned two mentions in The Poetry Shelf's list of favourite poetry reads for 2014 from poets and poetry fans. Paula Green, who calls for contributions and compiles the final list says, "Unlike most ‘best of 2014 book lists’, the invitation is to select favourite reads no matter where or when those reads were published."
Siobhan Harvey comments, "Bullet Hole Riddle (Steele Roberts) packs a powerful punch...it’s a book of unflinching honesty and potent impact."
Kirsti Whalen writes, "The most arresting modern poetry collection I may have ever read, tackling abuse and consent with lyrical command."
Poetry and Riddles | The Big Idea
29 October 2014 | Interview with Renee Liang about Bullet Hole Riddle
I've known Miriam since the days we were both MCs at Poetry Live, Auckland’s long running live poetry venue... Miriam has even talked me into being one of her poetry prostitutes (performing poetry one-on-one for a small fee.) I know how damn hard Miriam works at everything she decides to do, poetry being only one of those things. And I know how much her life is bound up in her poetry. So it’s pretty special that I got to read an advance copy of Bullet Hole Riddle, her new poetry collection.
How long has it taken you to put together this collection?
It’s been seven years and 29 drafts. Over the years I’ve gone back to rework the earliest pieces with a different perspective. Because I’ve been performing a lot of the poems throughout the process, there’s video and audio evidence of a lot of the earlier versions online. That’s been really interesting to be able to look back at from this point. ...
Q & A | Sunday Magazine
27 July 2014 for National Poetry Day
Tell us about the first poem you ever wrote.
I’d have been about 8. I think it was a rewrite of ‘roses are red’ for a primary school Valentine’s Day card. So I’m gonna say I started with found language poetry. Repurposing what I found around me. After that it was all sonnets to the trees.
If you could have written any poem in history, what would it be?
All my favourite poems are having a fight at the moment. Ani Di Franco’s ‘Self-Evident’ is throwing whiskey-bottles at Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ which is shaking a fist at Gill Scot Heron’s ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ while Bukowski’s ‘Dinosauria We’ bellows obscenities. Tusiata Avia’s ‘Alofa’ is threatening to let the wild dogs out of her skirt as e.e Cummings’ loneliness poem ineffectually drops leaves on the situation and the soldiers in Apirana Taylor’s ‘Before the Mountain’ shoot muskets over our heads. A thousand more are battering at the door, wanting in on the argument. It’s too noisy for decisions.
Which poets would you recommend to a first time reader/listener and why?
Karlo Mila, Robert Sullivan, Ben Brown, C.K. Stead, Peter Bland, Tusiata Avia, Dominic Hoey/Tourettes, Marina Alefosio, Jess Holly Bates – these NZ poets make some exquisite poetry. The last four you can find on Youtube. Their writing is not about obscure topics or getting super experimental with form, so it’s digestible, while remaining layered and interesting. I think it’s good to start with people from home. There’s a poet and a style of poetry for everyone though – half the fun is discovering them, so don’t stop exploring if the first thing you find doesn’t speak to you.
What’s one trick that makes life easier?
Asking for help.
Who is your hero and why?
Kate Sheppard, because she changed something about the world, something that seemed unchangeable.
What were you like in high school?
I was a geek when it came to school and a little bit wild when I wasn’t there. High school was more something to survive, but I dug the learning. I was a poet who didn’t ‘get’ sports living in a farming-surfing-rugby town, so basically I always felt weird. Until I found the poetry community and discovered my species. When I wasn’t at school or locked in my room with a notebook, I spent a lot of time outside, but not the sporty kind. It was rural NZ, so there were lots of parties and camping. There was a first love. And a second love. And all sorts of things that were not love.
If you could edit your past, what would you change?
It’s strange what beautiful things can grow out of ugly places if they are given enough time. If I go back and unflap all my butterflies’ wings, I could lose more than I gain.
If you could make the whole world read one book, what would it be?
The whole world can’t read and the whole world can’t get their hands on a book either. That’s one of the wonderful things about poetry really. Sure it involves words on a page, but it can be composed in the mind, spoken, performed, remembered and retold…to people who can’t get a book or don’t know how to read or think they don’t like it.
What person or thing would make your life better?
The person would be a personal masseuse. The thing would be a house of my own. It would have space outside to plant the imaginary garden that currently lives in my head.
Do you have any recurring dreams?
I used to have this dream I could levitate and walk through the air. It felt like swimming.
MiND Food Magazine
In 2012 I worked to co-produce and perform in The Big reTHiNK, a project that brought together over 100 volunteers to stage a multimedia theatre show at Q Theatre to reduce the shame attached to mental-health problems. Performances included live music, short plays, poetry, film and stand-up comedy.
I worked with choreographer Kristian Larsen, dancer Zahra Killeen Chance, musician John McNab and poet Daniel Larsen from The Literatti to transform two poems into a vignette for the stage called Somehow in Relation.
MiNDFood Magazine supported the show with a 7-page spread featuring a photo shoot and interviews with some of the cast.
Click the image to enlarge the article.
Theatre Review: Well Padded & Full
16 Oct 2011 | Theatre View review by Aidan B. Howard
"It would be too simplistic to call reTHINK Possible Worlds a poetry recital. Drawing from the fields of poetry, performance, music, dance and film, this elegant work asks the question, as its by-line, “Who are you in the maze of life?” The artists tell us in their programme that “the aim was to bring creative people together with the community to tackle the issue of stigma and promote acceptance,” especially in the arena of mental health. ...
While the 16 poems are clearly written by various artists or combinations, they all gel together with a uniformity of purpose. Some, like Miriam Barr's Burying Management, dig deep into the desire to scream out and make a statement in the face of a world which expects us to be subdued (reminiscent of Samuel Beckett's Not I); others, like Simone Kaho's Perception, echo the “black dog” of depression (the phrase popularised by Winston Churchill); still others, like Daniel Larsen's Question, deal with judgement and criticism in a completely rhythmic and rhyming lyricism unexpected from a lot of modern poetry..."
15 September 2010 | The Big Idea by Renee Liang
Renee: How did you become a poet?
Miriam: For some reason, one day when I was around 8 years old I picked up a pen and re-wrote a nursery rhyme. I don't know why. And then I started to make up my own nursery rhymes, and then poetry, but I didn't really know what I was doing I don't think. I just did it. And I just kept doing it.
Renee: That's hilarious. What did your parents think of it at the time?
Miriam: They really liked them. I don't know that they thought it was that much of a big deal. By the time I was about 11 or 12 they were putting stuff on the fridge and showing their mates though, so I think they thought it was good.
I think they worried I was a bit too grown up sometimes. Sometimes I wrote serious tracts about all the trees dying and things like that. I worried about the world. Ha, still do really eh?
Renee: You do! What kind of themes are you currently exploring? I know family is a big one, as is mental illness.
Miriam: My brother gave me my first ever notebook just for writing poetry in when I was about that age. I am interested more in psychology than mental unwellness exactly. In what makes us tick. Sometimes that means I'm examining myself and my own reactions and sometimes that means I'm examining other people or just plain making stuff up, but I'm pretty much always looking for a way to explore one of the undulations in the human condition. It just fascinates me, how many different ways we could move in, how I could do anything I want in the whole world right now, but why I choose to sit here and talk to you, or do any other thing.
And I'm interested in ideas of selfhood, of 'who' we are, what makes us, and where we end. ...