30 August 2012

An Interview With Sugu Pillay

Sugu Pillay is a poet and fiction writer who was born in Malaysia and now lives in Wellington. Her writing has appeared in journals, and online, and her first collection of short stories, The Chandrasekhar Limit and Other Stories, was published in 2002.

Sugu's first poetry collection, Flaubert's Drum, has just been published by IP. At the time of writing, Sugu and fellow poet Karen Zelas, with publisher and poet Dr David Reiter, are currently touring their new collections around New Zealand - look out for them at a poetry venue near you! I am looking forward to attending their Wellington launch event on Monday 3 September.

I ran the title poem of Sugu's collection as my Tuesday Poem this week, and Sugu was kind enough to answer the following five questions:

1. What is the significance of the title, Flaubert’s Drum?

As explained in the Notes at the back of the collection, it refers to Flaubert’s comment: “Human language is like a cracked kettle on which we beat our tunes for bears to dance to when all the time we long to move the stars to pity”. Writers struggle with articulation, swinging on this pendulum from the drum of the cracked kettle to the desired Music of the Spheres!  The title poem on page 37 exemplifies this problem of articulation.

2. How is Flaubert’s Drum organised? Does the collection have an overarching theme, or will the readers recognise a number of themes within it?

Flaubert’s Drum was submitted for IP’s 2012 Best Poetry competition as a collection of mostly published poems written over a long period. Grouping the poems under suitable headings is the only “organising” they have undergone. However, I could say the theme of Loss and the problem of its articulation, runs through many of the poems. Loss can be death of a loved one, the loss of love, loss of meaning, the loss of one’s place in the world, a dislocation.

3. I know from reading some of the poems in literary magasines that your experience as an immigrant to this country has featured in your poetry. Is this also the case in Flaubert’s Drum?

The first section under the heading ‘From Mission Bay to St Heliers’, has nine poems which express “the poetics of migrancy” in the voice of an invented persona, an immigrant artist. Although each poem has its own raison d’ étre, together the poems explore “the narrative of assimilation”, an on-going negotiation with oneself and everything encountered in the new land. There is another section, ‘Who Said What’ which unlike ‘Mission Bay to St Heliers’ is a personal response to experiences in “this other Eden”. In a sense, all immigrants are on a pilgrim's progress from initial euphoria, depression and adjustment to acceptance of their chosen "other Eden".

4. Who are some of your favourite poets or poets who have influenced your own writing?

Favourites change with the times. I had a very British colonial education. I fell in love with poetry in the Fourth Form when I encountered Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelly, Byron. At the University of Malaya, we read the then pantheon of English poets from Chaucer to T.S. Eliot in the First Year, with in-depth study in the Second & Third Years. My favourites were the Metaphysical poets, especially Donne and Marvell.  Their inventiveness of metaphor and “conceits” still delight and inspire.

Stylistically I can’t claim a particular influence. I think every poet you read stays somewhere in your subconscious, surfacing unexpectedly in the midst of your writing, like Donne’s “Busy old fool, unruly Sun” (and Cat Steven’s “Morning is breaking”) ringing in my head as I write “here comes the sun of pop songs/ & metaphysical poets/breaking the morning /with its glare & demands/for purposeful activity”.

It was much later, that I read American, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand poets. When I lived in Auckland for about two years, I was influenced by poets like Michele Leggott, Wystan Curnow and those who were regular contributors to A brief description of the whole world (now abbreviated to brief thankfully!). You would have noticed in my poems the use of borrowed lines in italics. I copied this from Michele Leggott. This was the period when I read voraciously on Post-Modern writing. I absolutely loved the intertextuality dense with references and cross-references. There’s an electricity in subtexts! However, I learnt to write in a variety of ways.

It seems to me while you use poetic devices in many ways to land your poems, you can decide whether you want to parachute to safety and make your poems very accessible to your readers, or you can parachute for sheer fun, use word play and verbal gymnastics creating poems which are fun to unpack. Or you can parachute to a secret destination, leaving no clear guide for the reader, making the poem a challenging “writerly” text inviting the reader’s active participation in the creative process. I hope I have written all three types in Flaubert’s Drum.

5. Finally, and if you don’t mind me asking, what are you working on at present?

I have three plays and a novel in the burner but they’ve been there for quite some time now! For poetry, I have a rather ambitious project, Voices. The inspiration comes from the Upanishads which are ancient Sanskrit texts going back to 800 BC. They are abstract philosophical speculations about Creation, the nature of the Self and Reality. About 14 Upanishads are said to exist but I’ve only read 10 of them in English translation. Here’s a tantalising bit from the Isa Upanishad : “They have put a golden stopper in the neck of the bottle. Pull it, Lord! Let out reality. I am full of longing”.   

Book availability details

Flaubert's Drum is available from IP, from a range of online sources including iTunes and Amazon.com, and through bookshops. The ISBN is ISBN 9781921869945.

28 August 2012

Tuesday Poem: Flaubert's Drum, by Sugu Pillay

that harlequin tear again
its fall threatened in Keats’ time

her soapy slippery anguished palms
cup for the reflecting bell-jar

each drop
the world’s grammar
the Rosetta stone

plows wide furrows
meets with resistance
may or may not connect
never certain that it should

each known thing easily
becomes unknown

like that cracked kettle
of Flaubert’s

Credit note: This is the title poem of Sugu Pillay's debut poetry collection Flaubert's Drum, which has just been published by IP, who also published my collection Men Briefly Explained.

Tim says: Sugu and fellow poet Karen Zelas, with publisher and poet Dr David Reiter, are currently touring their new collections around New Zealand - look out for them at a poetry venue near you! I am looking forward to attending their Wellington launch event on Monday 3 September.

Watch out for my interview with Sugu Pillay, which should appear here on Thursday.

The Tuesday Poem: You can find links to this and all the other Tuesday Poems on the left of the Tuesday Poem blog, where you will also find the hub poem for the week.

24 August 2012

Mansfield with Monsters: An Interview With Matt And Debbie Cowens

Matt and Debbie Cowens are both high school teachers who live and work on the Kapiti Coast. They’ve each had a number of short stories published online and in anthologies. Mansfield with Monsters is their first collaborative collection of short stories – collaborating with each other and with New Zealand’s most iconic writer of short fiction, Katherine Mansfield.

Tim adds: Mansfield with Monsters is the second book published by Steam Press, a new New Zealand science fiction publisher which has made quite an impact since it was set up.

Why Mansfield, and why with monsters?

We’re both fans of the science fiction and horror genres, and we’re very familiar with Mansfield’s work as we’ve taught her stories in high school. The opportunity to build a bridge between the two was too tempting to pass up. It created a lot of pressure to do justice to both Mansfield, as New Zealand’s most iconic writer, and to the speculative genre we love, but it was enormously satisfying to weave the two together.

Did you look at other works in the mash-up genre, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, when planning Mansfield with Monsters?

Debbie had read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which blazed a trail in the concept of reworking classic fiction which is in the public domain, but we wanted to take Mansfield with Monsters in a slightly different direction. It was important to us to have the supernatural or otherworldly elements work with the source material on a thematic as well as a literal level. Of course we also had the luxury of working with multiple stories, exploring different kinds of creatures and mythologies, and how they could fit into the lives of Katherine Mansfield’s characters, which kept the project fresh and makes it a little different to other mashups.

Katherine Mansfield’s writing is not usually plot-heavy.  Did that cause a problem for you when you came to rework these stories, and if so, what strategies did you use to get around it?

Mansfield’s stories are quite varied, so we tackled each one a little differently. A story like The Doll’s House follows a clear sequence of events to reveal the injustice of prejudice and the class system. We took that concept and pushed it to a darker place, filling in little details along the way to twist the story into a tale of witchcraft, murder, possession and insanity – borne out of prejudice and the injustice of the class system. Other stories were more stream-of-consciousness and we had to be more bold in our reshaping. It was a delight to sit down with each story and deconstruct it, probe it for areas where the supernatural could worm its way in, or turn it upside down and give it a good shaking to see what the bones of the story were and whether we could arrange those bones into a different but coherent shape, like literary archaeologists building their own ‘Tyrannosaurus Mansfield’.

On the other hand, of course, there is a Gothic – and New Zealand Gothic – flavour to a number of Mansfield’s stories. You start the collection with your version of “The Woman at the Store” – was it that story’s pre-existing atmosphere of menace that made you decide to start the collection with it?

Our wonderful editor Stephen Minchin decided the final order of the stories. The Woman at the Store is a story which already bordered on horror, and cast New Zealand in an interesting Wild West, frontier light. Twisting it to include a Pet Cemetery vibe maintained the dark sense of menace of the previously published version whilst referencing a classic of modern horror. It signals to the reader that the collection is less tongue-in-cheek than something like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. We asked Stephen why it was first up in the anthology and his sagely answer was that the stories are chronological in terms of first publication.

It may seem odd to ask about a story you haven’t included, but when I opened the book I was looking forward to reading your version of “At the Bay” – yet I see that you haven’t included it. Did you know from an early stage what stories you would include, or did you experiment with more stories than made it to the published collection?

We read a wide range of Mansfield’s stories and explored the copyright laws of various countries. Mansfield’s death in 1923 placed her early works in the public domain in all the countries we wanted to reach, but some of her posthumously published stories are still owned by American publishers. We looked for stories which sparked our imaginations, stories which gave us opportunities to write a range of speculative adaptations. We were guided by intuition, by inspiration, and by legal constraints. At the Bay was tempting as we both love it, but it was structurally difficult and the idea of how to make to work without excising enormous tracts of text never quite clicked into place.

Has working with a number of her stories “from the inside” changed your opinion of Katherine Mansfield and her writing?

Mansfield’s place in New Zealand’s literary pantheon is well deserved – this process served to reinforce that view for us. Her writing is diverse and crafted and bleak and funny and relevant and historical – it’s incredibly powerful and moving. We each became more intimately acquainted with Mansfield’s stories and in working with her learned a great deal about the power of words, of inflection and suggestion. It was a delight and lead us to read Mansfield more widely – something we hope it will do for others too.

When I first heard of this project, I thought to myself that it would be very interesting to see how the literary community reacted to it: would there be guardians of the temple of New Zealand literature who would disapprove of the project? My impression is that reaction, overall has been very positive. Is that your experience too?

We’ve been very happy with the reception the novel has received so far. It was a risky proposition but people have been very open to the idea, from the Katherine Mansfield society to academics to devoted fans.  For younger readers Mansfield is definitely a historical figure, someone from a distant time whose life and work can have a degree of remoteness. It was part of our aim to reach out to a more modern audience with these stories. It’s a collection written out of love for Mansfield’s work and for the horror and science fiction elements we blended with them. It’s a tribute to a great writer, and so far it has been received as such.

You are both school teachers. Do you plan to, or could you see yourselves, using Mansfield with Monsters as a teaching tool?

Definitely. We know of a couple of schools where the stories have already been used and the feedback from students and teachers has been really positive. We’re working on some activities to help teachers use Mansfield with Monsters and other literary mash-up works as a point of comparison with their source material. 

If you don’t mind me asking, what other literary projects do you have on the go?

We’re both working on our own individual novels at present. Debbie is working on a young adult novel set in a Steampunk Victorian academy for aspiring villains, while Matt is reworking a manuscript dealing with ghosts, secret societies and arcane science in nineteenth century New Zealand. The collaborative process was wonderful and went very smoothly, so we may well return to a joint writing project in the future. For now we are savouring the success of Mansfield with Monsters.

How to buy Mansfield with Monsters

Mansfield with Monsters is currently available online at www.steampress.co.nz and www.amazon.com as well as in Unity Books and Arty Bee’s in Wellington, and Paper Plus, Whitcoulls and independent bookstores throughout New Zealand.

14 August 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Wind Blew Back Biff Byford's Hair

We stand in the face of the wind, of the wind machine
Our stylists ready with product and comb
We take up our stance and seize our guitars
In the face of the wind, of the wind machine.

We sing in the face of the war, of the war machine
Our stylists ready with product and comb
We watch the director and follow his cues
In the face of the war, of the war machine.

We laugh in the face of death, of the death machine
Our stylists ready with product and comb
We tease out highlights and re-shoot some takes
In the face of death, of the death machine.

We sneer in the face of hate, of the hate machine
Our stylists ready with product and comb
We shout out to fans who've stayed staunch and true
In the face of hate, of the hate machine.

In the face of hate, in the face of death
In the face of the war, in the face of the wind
We take up our stance and seize our guitars
Our stylists ready with product and comb.

Credit note: This is one of the poems I cut from the final manuscript of Men Briefly Explained. It is published here for the first time.

Tim says: You will scarcely need reminding that Peter Rodney "Biff" Byford was the magnificently-maned lead singer of Saxon, one of the bands that came to prominence in the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, or NWOBHM as one should properly call it (Nu-wobbem).

Here's Biff's barnet getting a good workout in an otherwise rather dubious hair-metal cover of Christopher Cross's yacht-rock hit "Ride Like The Wind"from 1988: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0OFr3-JPSE

After Billy Collins invented a parody of the villanelle called the Paradelle, I felt I had to go one better (or worse). I call the form I have invented for this poem the "Paradiddle", and hope that more poets will take up the challenge to write in this form, especially when writing poems about the lesser bands of the NWOBHM era.

My poetic tribute to the St Valentine's Day Massacre EP by the combined forces of Girlschool and Motörhead, should it proceed, is almost certain to be in the form of a paradiddle. I plan to call it "Please Don't Touch": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5dAyPoYax4 (R.I.P. Kelly Johnson, sadly missed).

The Tuesday Poem: can be found in all its multifarious splendour on, and in the sidebar at the left of, the Tuesday Poem blog.

07 August 2012

Tuesday Poem: tusitala of white lies, by Iain Britton

a million blackbirds

      fling full stops at the horizon

but who do I prefer to believe –

  the lady in black feathers

           who owns and occupies

                   a fig tree

or the slothful bugger

     who lives in the letter box

posting mail to himself           

          or the toilet roll author

                    of Kingdom Street

           the tusitala of white lies
                    of uninhibited wafflings /       

the view from here

            is global / inviting

                   extinct frogs

       continue to purse their lips

to chirp (bird-like) through solitary séances

                 the moon’s /          a cold lump

stuck hard

and helmeted

              but I prefer              the brunette

                       her feather cloak

                    her moulting shadow         her strut

          I coax her to come in

               share the dilated vista of another’s reality

I’m the tourist guide bus driver jesus janitor / the son
reorganising the future footprints of a family yet to cement
its language in stone in grubby layers broken like old teeth

another thing?

I walk through my house every day

to the sound

                of water music

                a forest shuffling its roots

                doors opening shutting

                a mango melting at the altar of my mouth

but then

               not all is at right angles

                             all isn’t the perfect hideout

                          for this fresh-air junkie


               a dreamtime jaunt
               an astral flight /    
               with no strings dangling

loose-limbed haloes

                       break down

            reviving an animal magnetism

      I retreat into the hood of my consciousness

                      groping for the lady’s


             her tightening grip – this flesh

                         and blood

                               mix of polarities

Credit note: "tusitala of white lies" is the title poem of Iain Britton's latest collection, a poetry pamphlet published by Like This Press in the UK. It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

Tim says: Iain Britton is a fine New Zealand poet whose work deserves to be better known. I interviewed Iain in 2009 for this blog, and since then, he's continued to have success publishing his work both in Aotearoa and internationally, as his bio shows:

Oystercatcher Press published my 3rd poetry collection in 2009, Kilmog Press my 4th in 2010. The Red Ceilings Press and the Argotist have recently published ebooks. A full collection with Lapwing Publications is out now, plus a pamphlet from Like This Press. Beard of Bees (US) chapbook in now online. Forthcoming  - poems in Peter Hughes' Sea Pie: a Shearsman Anthology of Oystercatcher Poetry. Also, Department Press and The Gumtree Press will be publishing collections later this year or in 2013.

The Tuesday Poem: Check out today's hub poem, and all the individual Tuesday Poems linked from the sidebar to the left, on the Tuesday Poem blog.

02 August 2012

An Interview With Claire Browning

Claire Browning is a former lawyer, author, editor and policy analyst, turned conservation advocate for Forest & Bird. She has also written regularly for blog site Pundit on environment and conservation issues, and green politics. Beyond Today is her first book, although she’s been published on a number of previous occasions, as co-author of Adams on Criminal Law: Sentencing, and in law reform reports and law journal articles. Wairarapa-based, she is renovating a cottage, growing a food forest, and cultivating wildness in her garden.

How did you come to write Beyond Today: a values story?

Well ... there’s a bit of a story there. I’d been blogging for a while on Pundit. Jeanette Fitzsimons was leaving Parliament, and I wanted to write a valedictory post – and to do that, I wanted to see the trajectory of her political career. Jeanette lent me her two Values Party manifestos: Blueprint for an Alternative Future from 1972, and Beyond Tomorrow (1975).

They were what I’d been looking for from the Greens: the key to the policy puzzle. And so, I wrote some blogs about Values, and about Green policy, nagging the Greens about their story. That’s where it started, and in the end, I wrote the story myself. The result is Beyond Today.

I worked hard to boil it all down to its essentials; to keep it short and clear and simple; to make it approachable; and beautiful enough to do justice to an amazing political story, and a compelling policy one. But so much more could be written, about the history of the Values Party, and the green movement, and the way forward.

If you don’t mind me asking, what led to your personal decision to join the Green Party?

It was a – I won’t say reluctant – but a cautious decision. I joined with a personal commitment not to participate in any of the party processes, as an inside observer, for research. I couldn’t find out what I needed to know or wanted to understand about the party, without a better sense of who its members were and how processes worked internally.

At the present time, my membership’s expired.

Beyond Today is in part a history of the Values Party, and in part your thoughts on the future of the Green Party. Was it always the intention to cover both these aspects, or did that combination develop as the book progressed?

It was always the intention to cover both - to take a perspective on the Greens by looking back at Values, to move policy and politics forward. But I want to correct this idea of the book as a “history” of Values. It isn’t, and it’s title – Beyond Today: a values story – is values with a little “v”.

It sketches out how the Values Party started, and some of the things that it achieved. I wanted to pay tribute to the Values movement, and say to the Greens: let’s celebrate being 40 years out in front. It’s a plea: don’t let that story get lost. The green movement was grounded in values, and values are what need to change. So I’m less interested in the history than the story for today: what being green really means, and why.

I wanted to challenge the Greens, too: to shake out a bit of the righteousness.

Given the often-tempestuous history of the Values Party, did you find that former Values Party members were keen to talk with you for this book?

I gather that a few more of them wanted to talk to me than I had realised! Perhaps it’s a consequence of the tempestuous relations and different perspectives that people wanted the opportunity to offer their own views.

In contrast to the Values Party (of which I was a member from 1977-1980), the Green Party seems for the most part to have maintained a high degree of unity, and when splits or potential splits have occurred, they seem to have been well managed. What do you think accounts for that contrast?

I think that the party has learned from its history. Its first co-leaders Jeanette and Rod were former Values members, as were others. But also, I suspect it’s been attained in large degree by simply muddling, as a party, along through the issues; I don’t mean by that to belittle anyone’s political management, or the care that’s probably from time to time gone into political management, but there’s been muddling, too, on policy in particular.

There’s always going to be a risk that in becoming more definitive, it’ll alienate some people. One description that resonated with me was of the party as a sort of Rorschach blot, on to which members, candidates, voters project their own perceptions, and their different (though not incompatible) priorities, and can rub along quite happily together for quite a long time, in a culture of respect and tolerance. But when it comes to a broader audience - and winning hearts, forever, not just a vote and power for a few years - I don’t know if that’s enough.

I may be wrong. But it became important to me to write the story down again, in 2012 not 1972 - to say what it is that green politics actually represents, not just a cleaner environment. By far the largest part of the challenge – and it’s the same challenge – is the economics.

In Beyond Today, you appear to be arguing that the Green Party would be better served by not being identified with the left of the political spectrum. Is that a fair statement of your position?

Yes. And I think there are both political reasons, and reasons in principle.

Values dismissed the politics of both the right and the left, and others share Tony Brunt’s hunch (Brunt was Values’ founder): that there are a lot of voters with a collection of values that coincide with the mix of policies that you would find, and have always found, in a green manifesto – voters who don’t and won’t identify with the left – because they aren’t intrinsically left-wing values. Green politics hasn’t tapped into that movement yet. It might be starting to.

In the end, I think you can express it very simply. This is not about two-dimensional opposition politics. It’s about all of us, and all of the kinds that it takes to make a world. It’s about supporting and demanding individual responsibility and freedom, just as much as supporting a strong social structure, and regulation to protect those without a voice in society: nature and the disenfranchised. And it will take all of us.

There are right wing values that are not admirable – they’re disastrous – but there’s ideology of the left that will see this project fail, if we can’t practise inclusion and diversity, instead of just talking about it.

In my view, our core problem as a species is that we are living beyond the planet’s means – we are using up the Earth’s natural capital faster than it can be replenished. I don’t think that it is possible to establish a global economic system that allows us to live within the planet’s means under capitalism, because capitalism depends on economic growth. Does the Green Party share that position, and if so, doesn’t that make the Greens an anti-capitalist party?

I think you need to ask a spokesperson for the Green Party! But the best response to that which I’ve seen to date, about a managed transition to something else – as yet undefined – would be Jeanette Fitzsimons’ on Pundit:

If you were designing a system to live within the limits of the planet and care for all its people you certainly wouldn't start with capitalism. But given that's what we have, and the only thing most people know, and change is desperately urgent, like in the next 5 years - what do you do with it? What happens to the corporates which currently deliver the goods and services we buy and in which many small people have invested their life savings? They aren't going to just go away and there's no appetite publicly for recolution and confiscation and nationalisation. I'm afraid that if we have to wait to change the whole economic system and grow a form of democratic eco-socialism that has never been tried anywhere let alone succeeded in leaving us a blueprint, we will still be designing it when the oceans close over our heads and food wars break out all over.

Of course it would be better to run society as a participatory, democratically controlled egalitarian economy that plans to meet human needs sustainably, but the big problem remains. What seem like the obvious priorities to us - quality food and shelter for everyone, products that last for ages and can be repaired, renewable energy, local production - just aren't the priorities most people would choose. We assume a democratically controlled socialism would give us the answer we support - where is the evidence for that? And if the people, given all the facts, choose more shopping malls and one trip packaging and junk food and waste, because they have endured generations of advertising and corporate culture that inculcates those values - what then? and how likely are they to choose to limit their own consumption even more severely so that people in developing countries can get enough food and fresh water?

It was in the context of a discussion, and people might want to read the whole thing. I don’t think we know yet exactly how a functional green economy would look.

The current relationship between the Green Party and the Labour Party is a curious mixture of cooperation and competition. To what extent do you think the two parties can – or should – find common ground? How about the Greens and other parties?

Yes, “hugging” or “mugging”? I was intrigued by Grant Robertson’s recent speech: the latest in a series of indicators that Labour, as it has always been, is quite attentive to the Greens’ approach, and green ideas. He gave the speech on June 28 - it’s a thoughtful speech - and like Beyond Today, it’s about values. Labour values, starting with the Labour constitution.

But Labour’s also missing, or not fully addressing, a very fundamental point, and I suspect this is a consequence of the point having been so obscured – the key point I try to tease out in Beyond Today. There won’t ever be common ground, until the economic paradigm of growth shifts. The environment part can’t be done, without the economic part. Anyone who says it can is lying.

There are parts of green thought that express both left and right wing ideals, which the politics chapter of Beyond Today explores a bit. And there are parts so incompatible with both that the ground is not common. It’s not common at all, in any sense: it’s not shared by anyone else yet, politically, and it’s an elusive, radical (transformational) thing.

I guess that means by definition, it can’t be the centre ground.

As someone who’s both an environmental activist and a poet, and who finds that the two roles don’t always fit neatly together, I am intrigued by your statement, echoing Paul Kingsnorth, that “we need the quants, and the poets, both” (p. 107). Who do you mean by “the quants”? And how can the poets help without losing their poetry, and turning into mere propagandists?

“The quants” is Kingsnorth’s term. It comes from a blog that he wrote, I’ve quoted from it in the frontispiece of the book, and the whole thing is among my favourite blog reads.

My understanding of what he means by that term is: people – well-meaning people, politicians often, but not exclusively – who have lost sight of, or forgotten, or never understood what lay at the heart of green thought. People who are focused on making the $ and the carbon cuts (and the votes) add up; less focused, if at all, on confronting the whole economic paradigm, and confronting ourselves.

He rightly pinpoints the fact that we need a whole culture change, a total change of heart. And that one of the ways, perhaps the only way, to achieve that is by changing the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves. Which is where the poets come in. The Club of Rome’s saying the same thing (the Club of Rome, a high-powered think tank, first published the Limits to Growth in 1972).

I’m both: quant and poet, both. Not, literally, a poet - but I analyse (law and policy, usually), and when I get tired of that, I dream. Perhaps that’s an uncomfortable mix in the book, I don’t know, nor care really. It is what it is, and how I wanted it to be. It’s the story, according to me.

Finally, are more books by Claire Browning on the way?

I kind of half-accidentally ended up writing this one, so... I think not. But you never know...

Book availability details

For a copy of Beyond Today: A Values Story, which costs $15 (plus p&p), email values.story@gmail.com.