Jack Ross, ed.: brief 29 (April 2004)
David Howard & Fiona Pardington, How to Occupy Our Selves. Wellington: HeadworX, 2003. ISBN 0-473-09436-3. 88 pp. RRP $29.95.
David Howard & Fiona Pardington: How to Occupy Our Selves (2003)
David Howard and Fiona Pardington have collaborated to produce a very odd book indeed, which must undoubtedly qualify (in the present parlous state of smug blandness in our national letters), as a good thing. I think it’s appropriate that the pictures are given equal billing with the poems, because I don’t fully understand either. That’s okay – it’s clear that we’re not supposed to, for the most part. The photographs appear to be about haunting and mystifying the quotidian: a name-card on a table, reading “Wayne’s partner,” a piece of paper with the words “I am going to write you a poem” carefully printed on it in childish handwriting, and some rather more characteristic Pardington images (a young woman lifting her top, or peeling off her knickers). David aspires to mystify what he continues to reveal. The poem “I (a rebuke to Kai Jensen),” written in response to a damning review by the latter of Howard’s collected poems, ends tellingly with the mini-dialogue: “– You’re saying that to get at me / – No. I’m saying that to get to you”. I believe him. Whether it’s (worldly) wise to worry about a bad notice so much is one thing. The pain this poem contains is another. I love the fragility that these two “established” artists continue to reveal – the self-doubt, the thin-skinned near-hysteria. The cover image, a bird caught in a fist, is telling in the extreme: life is a precarious and risky business; when you stop feeling, you’re dead. These two are only too alive.