Comments for the launch of No Joke by Mark Pirie
It was my pleasure to publish Mark Pirie's first book of poems,
Shoot, in 1999. Of the seven books, Sudden Valley put out
that year Shoot was arguably the most energetic, and it
was certainly the one to showcase the author with the most
No Joke shows us some of that development. Like
Shoot, it is not the entire Mark Pirie. Yet in contrast to
Shoot - which centres around camera angles, cinema
terminology and so on - No Joke takes us more deeply into
what we might term the psychology of popular culture. By that I
mean that these poems subvert standard readings in the same way
that some movies and sit-coms subvert standard viewings. We see it
now in shows like Just Shoot Me, as we saw it once in the
silent movies: a girl is tied to the rails, the train is
whistling and grinding towards her, she cannot free herself! but HE
arrives in the nick of time and saves her - "My Hero."
Of course it was never meant to be taken literally, or
seriously, yet neither was it meant to be laughed at. Rather we
laugh with it, and we are moved by it.
There are, then, clear elements of simplification,
exaggeration and empathy in this approach - which is also the
approach of No Joke. And to my knowledge Mark Pirie is the
only New Zealand poet who has made this territory his own. There is
a good chance he is the only poet to do so anywhere else as
But that's Mark. He doesn't have mental barriers, and … it
more often leads him and us to something that is fresh and
energetic, something as unfettered by received opinion as it is
grounded in liberal/humanist values.
I cannot think of a young poet in this country with more to
offer than Mark Pirie - which isn't to minimise the considerable
talents of his contemporaries, but it is to identify a poet whose
work I re-read with growing pleasure and admiration.
John O'Connor, Christchurch, 2001
John O'Connor is a New Zealand poet and small press poetry
publisher with Sudden Valley Press. He is a leading exponent of the
haiku form recognised internationally. He helps organise the
Canterbury Poets Collective readings in Christchurch.