Thank you to the respected New Zealand journal, Kokako, for publishing an extended review of Blowing Up Balloons: baby poems for parents by Vanessa Proctor and Gregory Piko. Issue 27 of Kokako includes a review of BUB written by widely published Auckland poet, Tony Beyer.
As Tony points out, Blowing Up Balloons is at the same time a book for parents, and a book for poets.
In writing together, Vanessa and myself clearly viewed the book as a collaboration, rather than a competition. So we were pleased to see Tony comment favourably on our decision not to identify the author of individual poems in BUB. Our intention was to create a seamless collection which incorporated the style and scope of each poet while keeping the focus firmly on the poetry. We were keen to avoid a situation where attributing an author to each poem turned the collection into a competition between two voices, thereby distracting from the flow and impact of the poetry. We hope our readers enjoy the result.
Here is some of what Tony had to say about BUB:
Neither the title nor the subtitle (with its sly pun) of this entertaining book should persuade readers to dismiss it as a charming compendium of cuteness.
While at times it seems obvious from its content which poet has written a particular poem, I applaud the authors’ decision not to make this explicit. In a similar joint enterprise, Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry (Copper Canyon Press, 2003), Ted Kooser and the late Jim Harrison maintained an equal dual anonymity. One of them wrote “Everyone gets tired of this continuing cult of the personality . . . This book is an assertion in favour of poetry and against credentials.” (A comparison between these two works is disrespectful to neither). Here also joint responsibility adds a dimension of both honesty and human integrity. While this is not consistent with Japanese linked-verse traditions, it’s something for practitioners to think about.
Aside from her words, Vanessa Proctor has considerably enhanced the appearance of Blowing Up Balloons with her beautiful colour-wash art work, abstract yet definitely appropriate. If you know someone setting out for the first time, or any time, on the adventure of parenthood, this book with its equal proportions of realism, reassurance, and humour would make an excellent gift. For Japanese short-form enthusiasts, blessed or otherwise with offspring, it is an opportunity to admire two accomplished maestros at the top of their game in a prestigious international publication.