‘All of my best lines are accidents’, Chris Price writes in this book, and proceeds to prove that she has the knack of putting herself in harm’s way and the skill to build from there.
Beside Herself plays with character, and with language, and with the way the one works on the other. Pronouns and personae shift and dance in this book in the same way that meanings do – unexpectedly. Price has always been attentive to the unlooked-for delights of language – she is a master of the riddling word-play poem – and uses this play in the service of something larger, an exploration of character and persona and perspective: ‘I am every character – every, every character’. These characters appear from a variety of times, places and fictions – Richard III, Hamlet, three readers (one a writer), Richard Nunns and Miss Bethell – from contemporary Wellington to medieval England. The longer sequence ‘The Book of Churl’ is the narrative of medieval everyman; another long poem, ‘Beside Yourself’, is both a battle against the relentless first-person pronoun and a celebration of it, in ramshackle poem-diary form.
A selection of beautifully crafted, riddling poems of persons and personae, truths and falsehoods, frank identities and masked selves, Beside Herself is a playful, shape-shifting performance.
Chris Price teaches the poetry and creative non-fiction MA at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University. She managed the New Zealand Festival’s Writer’s Week for 12 years, and for much of the 90s she edited the literary journal Landfall. Price’s first collection of poems, Husk, won the 2002 NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry. Her next book, the genre-busting Brief Lives, was shortlisted for the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. AUP published Price’s third book, The Blind Singer, in 2009. Price was awarded the 2011 Katherine Mansfield Fellowship. She has also contributed to two science/art collaborations, Are Angels OK? (2006), and the Transit of Venus Poetry Exchange, which paired German and New Zealand poets and culminated in performances at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair.