Palmerston North poet Tim Upperton celebrated National Poetry Day early, and in a unique way.
National Poetry Day is held on the last Friday in August, but the Palmerston North Massey University student in the final throes of writing his PhD, learned in May this year that one of his poems had been included in an online anthology, the 2016 edition of Best New Zealand Poems.
It was a bonus for Upperton to know that a poem by his 26-year-old son, Oscar Upperton, was also among the 25 poems selected by Arts Foundation Laureate and former Poet Laureate Jenny Bornholdt.
That’s 25 poems out of the roughly 1000 published in New Zealand in a year.
“It’s the first time this has happened – that a father and son have made the same Best New Zealand Poems,” Upperton said.
The pair were invited to the marae at Te Papa in Wellington on Monday to share their poems, along with 11 other prominent poets.
“It was the first time we had read our poetry together [in a setting] like that. He read a poem about us going mushrooming together. It made it quite special for me,” Tim said.
The chosen father and son poems for the anthology, Tim’s In Topeka, Kansas and Oscar’s Door Against the Coldwere both originally published in the same edition of Sport.
“My poem is in the nature of re-imagining your life in a new strange place. Topeka is a bit arbitrary, but I liked the name.”
Oscar’s poem features his mother bringing in firewood but transcends domesticity by conjuring up an evocative surrealism.
Now a lawyer working in Wellington, Oscar grew up in Palmerston North and has had work published in magazines Metro and Sport before turning 20.
Upperton described his son as being highly creative with a strong sense of social justice and a precise, ordered and meticulous mind.
While this was Oscar’s first inclusion in Best New Zealand Poems, Tim has had several poems published there over the years.
The older Upperton can see a time when his son will surpass him.
“One day we’ll both submit work, and his will be accepted and mine won’t.”
The freely accessible Best New Zealand Poemsplatform showcased Kiwi poetry internationally, Upperton said.
“Because it’s online it gets a higher readership than other poetry published here.”
The site also strongly conveys a sense that despite being a minority interest, poetry is still important.